Build your own X-Ray vision camera

Popular Science has starting instruction on their How 2.0 Blog for building your own X-Ray vision camera. They are quick to point out one of the potential issues with building the camera:

xray-pic_resize.jpgYou’ve seen them in the back of magazines–heck, probably Popular Science–all your life: the crazy swirling paper X-ray specs, with the campy ’50s pervert looking at the bloomers of a shocked gal. While we don’t support such nefarious uses, you can make your own working X-ray camera, just by modifying a CVS Disposable. It won’t give you Superman vision, but you should be able to see through one or two layers of paper and fabric (again, behave!) in the right light. Here’s the catch: The key is in a hard-to-find X-ray conversion material called a beryllium window. PopSci got its sample from NASA during a visit to the Goddard Space Flight Center a few years ago, as it is sometimes used in satellites to block out cosmic X rays that might distort digital communications.

So if you don’t have friends at Goddard, you might want to start looking now for another source of a beryllium window (a quick search of ebay turned up zero, so don’t think it’s that easy). Still, I think the results show this to be worth trying to get and build anyway.

[tags]Build your own X-Ray vision camera, PopSci X-ray camera instructions[/tags]

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]

Turn your urine blue

blue_urine.jpgI don’t know why you would want to do this, but it seemed funny enough to me that I thought I’d point you towards a guide on how to turn your urine blue.

We’ve all dreamed of it – who wouldn’t want to have bright blue urine? Alright, I admit some people might be appalled at this strange activity, but many will find it interesting.

. . .

My interest in this subject began from hearing a rumor that there was a chemical you could add to food that would make someone’s urine turn blue, as a prank. The person I heard it from had no idea what chemical it was but insisted that it existed.

I, of course, being of the Google generation, searched immediately for turn urine blue and lo and behold, the second result was a Wikipedia entry for a chemical called Methylene Blue. I knew I had to have it.

Now you can make your toilet look like you’ve got Tidy Bowl at work after you use it rather than before. Why? I don’t know. But I’m sure someone wants this information. Also, in the comments to the article is this warning:

WARNING: TAKE METHYLENE BLUE AT YOUR OWN RISK. The prank is fairly harmless if small amounts of methylene blue are used, although allergies are possible and it is advisable to use pharmaceutical-grade stain which has been carefully protected from contamination. The presence of other medical problems may affect the use of methylene blue. Be aware if you have any other medical problems, especially:

Followed by the problems which should lead you to not trying this. (via boingboing)

[tags]Turn your urine blue[/tags]

Backyard roller coaster

I don’t have the back yard to build it. I don’t have the skills to pull it off. I don’t have the time to work on it. I don’t have a wife who would in any way support my working on it. I don’t have the money for the materials nor the tools for building it. But I have 2 kids who would get a kick out of it, and a personal love of coasters that just makes me wish I could build this coaster (or really, just something like it) for my own personal use.


[tags]Backyard roller coaster, Personal roller coaster[/tags]

Halloween LEGO hacking

OK, so I’m a week late with this – more if you actually want to do some hacking for Halloween. I had this selected to post about 10 days ago, but haven’t gotten caught up on everything in life to have time to get the post out. So just bookmark this, and next year you can make your own Halloween LEGO hacks.

“It’s remarkably easy to hack LEDs into Lego minifigures to make awesome, creepy, and tiny decorations for Halloween. In what seems like a miraculous coincidence, a standard LED fits exactly into the head of a Lego minifigure. It’s that easy: grab an LED and a head, slip it in, and it fits perfectly.”


Images and information at evil mad scientist. (via MAKEzine blog)

[tags]LEGO Halloween hacking[/tags]

Super compact 9V USB charger

(via MAKEzine blog)

I’ve seen a lot of 9V battery based USB chargers.  Most seem built around an Altoids mint container.  This one is far smaller, and doesn’t have room to actually hold the 9V battery.  Basically, you plug the battery in on one side and the USB device which needs charged in the other.  I’ve skipped all the other 9V USB guides, but I may try to put one of these together just for those occasions when I have something which charges or runs off a USB connection.  It even has a cool little LED so you can tell when it’s working.

One of the really cool things about this is the charger itself is built from the shell of a 9V battery.  Instructions and images are given for disassembling one battery to build the charger.  Obviously, then, you need a non-disassembled battery to hook up and provide power for the USB port.

[tags]9V USB charger, YAN9VUSBC (Yet another 9 volt USB charger)[/tags]

Constellations in a canister

(via MAKEzine blog)
A set of simple (and honestly – obvious enough that I should have thought of and done this on my own) instructions for making canisters which project constellations on walls/ceilings/etc, courtesy of NASA. A great teaching project for kids, too. My older son is getting to the age where he’ll probably be really interested in things like this, anyway. And of course, whatever the older does, the younger wants to do.


[tags]NASA, Constellations, DIY projects[/tags]

DIY LEGO mosaic

(via MAKEzine blog)

Hey, it’s LEGOs, I’m a geek, and this is a DIY guide.  I believe I’m legally obligated to point this one out.  I may try this out with my kids, in fact.

When my oldest son was born in 2001 LEGO offered a cool online “Brick-o-lizer” that would take an lego_mosaic_complete.jpguploaded photo and turn it into a five-tone grayscale grid of 1×1 bricks from which you could create a wall-hanging mosaic. LEGO would send you the exact right amount of bricks in bulk. Putting it together was as easy as paint-by-numbers. I did this for him and for his little brother in 2003.

My daughter was born a few weeks ago and so naturally I went back to the Brick-o-lizer to create her mosaic. Imagine my horror to find out that it isn’t available anymore. How could I deprive my baby girl of her LEGO mosaic? Well. Obviously. I couldn’t.

So, here follows instructions for doing it manually in Photoshop. (But before we begin, let’s be sure to acknowledge the unbelievably talented people who create LEGO mosaics in full color without a grid at all. I bow to your supremacy.)

The one thing I have to point out here is that the author uses Photoshop.  Not all of us have access to that application, however.  Anyone willing to write up brief instructions on how to do the photo-conversion process in The Gimp instead of Photoshop?  That would be hella helpful for those of us using open-source/legally free software when possible.

[tags]LEGO, LEGO mosaic, DIY guide[/tags]

Make your own RGB mood light with LEDs

(via MAKEzine blog)
This is pretty nifty looking project. mood_red_thumbnail.jpgOf course, I like shiny things, so it might not as cool to others as it is to me. At this site, you can get complete instructions – video (color fades or color jumps) pictures, parts list, and circuit diagrams – for building your own mood light using 3 color LEDs.

mood_pink_thumbnail.jpgOn this page i will explain how i created my own colour changing lamp with red, green and blue leds that fades between all colours of the rainbow. It really comes out well at night when other light are dimmed. In daylight conditions the colors aren’t noticed well. mood_purple_thumbnail.jpgAlthough it’s low budget i must say the result is nice. Here are some photo’s of my lamp in action. Click on any foto to see it in a bigger size.

. . .

So if it’s low budget, what did you use? Well, mainly free stuff lying around. For the casing i used a plastic pyramid of ferrero rocher chocolates. I also used a microchip pic16f628 microprocessor i got from a free sample. Then i used some resistors and transistors i soldered out from old electronics. The LEDS were the most expensive. I used extra bright ones (red: 3000 mcd, green: 4000 mcd, blue:5000 mcd, all with a 25 degrees opening). I also purchased a battery holder formood_blue_thumbnail.jpg 4 AAA batteries which power this lamp for 10 hours non stop light effects.

. . .

This lamp is my first one and more of a proof of concept. It was the first time i programmed a pic microprocessor.

mood_green_thumbnail.jpgIn the near future i am planning to make more of these lamps but with other housings. I now know things i can do better in future lamps. For example buy diffused leds instead of transparant ones and with a bigger opening angle (however i solved the latter by rubbing the leds with sandpaper, but still…).

This looks like a fun to build project for me, and color changing useless lights just have an appeal to me. Now to find time to build one, and find a place in the house where my wife will let me leave it out all the time.


[tags]Mood lights, DIY, LEDs[/tags]

Kittens in a glass globe

It may not be as scary as Snakes on a Plane, but just seeing kittens in a glass globe seems spooky to me. This could be bigger than Bonsai Kittens! Original article from the January 1932 issue of Modern Mechanix.


TO WIN a bet, Dick Manley, California glass blower, performed an unprecedented glass blowing stunt. He placed three kittens in a glass tube and within three minutes fashioned it into a perfect 26-inch globe with the kittens inside and unharmed. A small hole admitted air.

[tags]Modern Mechanix, Glass bubble, Kittens in a glass globe[/tags]