In the Making: Player Guitar

Kevin’s been busy lately. All hail the hypnoguitar!

So far it plays 1 string and can play simple songs. The idea is to make a slide guitar that can play complex music from a program, much like “player” pianos read from sheet music. This is a demo video showing the progress so far.

Its coming together, don’t you think?

Read more on the project at the Player Guitar Wiki

Convert old 35mm film camera lenses to work with digital SLRs

Zach sez:

This week I took a simple camera lens from a $3 film camera I got from a thrift store and attached it to a cheap Canon body cap after drilling a hole in it. The result was a bit surprising once it was attached to the camera. Since the lens gets so close to the sensor, it made an inexpensive macro lens.

Results:

Nice going!

Sous Vide: Cooking for Nerds

I’ve decided to take the plunge.

Lacking basic cooking skills for much of my bachelor life, it occurs that rather than thinking of the endeavor to procure tasty food as a time consuming chore, I should think of it as an opportunity to experiment in a chemistry lab. To that end, I’ve recently fallen in love with and purchased a Sous Vide setup.

Now, I realize its not very “Maker” of me, but I did purchase (instead of make) a very precise temperature controller, the Sous Vide Magic. For this project, the maker bit is in the cooking, not the constructing of the device. So there.

The Sous Vide Magic marries up nicely to a dumb (no fancy electronics) rice cooker, in this case a $30 10 cup Black and Decker. The temp controller allows the user to set the temperature and time, then controls the electric output to the cooker to control the temperature. A highly accurate temp sensor sits in the water bath filling the cooker.

To this bath the scientist must add a vacuum sealed plastic bag. If you’re not familiar with sous vide, this should set off alarms, but never fear: we’re cooking at low temperatures for long periods of time. The plastic won’t melt. Additionally, I’m using vacuum seal-able ziploc bags, which contain no BPA to leach into my food and turn me into a woman (BPA acts as a synthetic estrogen in the body). Bases covered.

We must vacuum seal the food (sous vide is vacuum in French, so I hear) in order to both fully expose it to the water bath on all sides, and of course, the food you wish to cook is kept in the bag so as to keep it from being soggy in the water. Simple enough.

The first experiment was a simple “Patio” steak. I cooked it at 140F for 90 minutes. The steak came out medium, tender, and quite juicy, as all its original juices remained in the plastic bag. The added benefit was a minimum of mess, as I simply threw out the bag when finished. The seasoning (simple black pepper), though minimal, seemed to be amplified. In the future, I would consider cooking for even longer, as this particular cut can be gristled and this would tenderize it more. Also, I plan to buy a creme brule’ torch so I can sear the outside of the steak briefly before serving next time. Moderate success!

Next test: Sous Vide coffee. Stay tuned.

Geiger Counter Project: Complete

As an electronic newbie, it pleases me to say that my first electronic circuit project is complete and functional.  You too can learn to solder!

In light of the recent catastrophe in Japan, I decided to construct my own geiger counter.  These kits can be purchased from Cheney Electronics.

After one afternoon of acquainting myself with basic electronic components (thanks to Brandon, Jason, and Dave for the help) and melting metal like a madman, the results:

As you can see, at sea level cosmic radiation is relatively low.  However:

At altitude, the radiation level increases significantly.  Luckily, I haven’t had readings like this while scanning objects on the ground.  In the event of encountering a radioactive agent, the clicks would actually be significantly higher than this.

Currently there is a project on Kickstarter whose goal is to set up a network of geiger counters to inform the Japanese populace about radioactivity in their country.  Check it out!