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December 9,2011- RainyDayScience GiftGuide...

Back in the 60's many a boy hoped to find a chemistry set under the tree on Christmas morning (that, and a BB gun). The promise of being able to make invisible ink, CO2 rockets, and sulfur bombs was catnip to quite a few eleven year olds. Sadly (or thankfully) those days are gone. However, items found under the contemporary Christmas tree can still spark wonder, stimulate the imagination, and satisfy curiosities.

Nothing evokes more wonder than the inner workings of the human brain. While we are not yet at the point of being able to easily decode the signals of the brain, tools are becoming available which enable us to get a glimpse of what is going on. The MindWave from NeuroSky is such a tool. They have managed to take decades of laboratory brainwave technology and squeezed it into a headset for under $100! This single channel EEG detector safely measures brainwave signals and monitors the attention level of a... [more] - 2011 RainyDayScience GiftGuide

 

November 16,2011- Leonardo da Vinci...

Tesla, Edison, Jobs are names we all know well. We associate them with inventions which forever changed our lives. However, hundreds of years before them lived an inventor the likes of which we have not seen since and may not see again (ever). That genius was, of course, Leonardo da Vinci.

Aeronautics, architecture, art (The Last Supper, Mona Lisa), biology, engineering, geology, physics...these are just some of the fields in which da Vinci made ground-breaking/significant contributions. We know this because he kept detailed notes of his thoughts and... [more] - Leonardo da Vinci collection

 

November 15,2011-iOptron Telescope...

Meade and Celestron are the two dominant players in the telescope market. In the past, the astro gear (LX200GPS, ASGT tripod, HyperStar, etc...) we looked at was more suited for advanced amateurs. Some readers have asked if we would recommend some quality telescopes for beginners and youngsters. We thought it was a reasonable suggestion and began looking around. Turns out, finding a good quality beginner telescope was more difficult than we thought it would be. If we saw large colorful close-ups of planets, galaxies, or comets on the box, we skipped it; there is zero chance one will see ANY of them with a low-power telescope. We think it is blatantly false advertising and sets a completely false expectation of what one may see with that instrument. We wanted no part in perpetuating such falsehood.

One telescope company did catch our eye. That company is iOptron. iOptron offers a range of mounts and telescopes for both beginners and serious amateurs. They are a new player who has been steadily gaining traction because their gear strikes a good balance between... [more] - iOptron iExplore 70 AZ Telescope FirstLook

 

November 15,2011-iOptron Telescope...

Meade and Celestron are the two dominant players in the telescope market. In the past, the astro gear (LX200GPS, ASGT tripod, HyperStar, etc...) we looked at was more suited for advanced amateurs. Some readers have asked if we would recommend some quality telescopes for beginners and youngsters. We thought it was a reasonable suggestion and began looking around. Turns out, finding a good quality beginner telescope was more difficult than we thought it would be. If we saw large colorful close-ups of planets, galaxies, or comets on the box, we skipped it; there is zero chance one will see ANY of them with a low-power telescope. We think it is blatantly false advertising and sets a completely false expectation of what one may see with that instrument. We wanted no part in perpetuating such falsehood.

One telescope company did catch our eye. That company is iOptron. iOptron offers a range of mounts and telescopes for both beginners and serious amateurs. They are a new player who has been steadily gaining traction because their gear strikes a good balance between... [more] - iOptron iExplore 70 AZ Telescope FirstLook

 

November 2, 2011- Celestial Globe Setup...

The Earth-centric model of the Solar System was first proposed by the Greek astronomer Ptolemy around 150 AD. That logical, but foundationally incorrect, model endured for 1500 years until Copernicus suggested a simpler explanation for the movement of the planets. It took over 200 years before most people came to believe that Copernicus was correct. Discoveries made by Kepler, Galileo, and Newton all helped to show that a Sun-centric model was how things really were "in the wild."

When we gave a FirstLook of Hubbard Scientific's Celestial Globe in September, some readers were confused as to how that globe could properly represent the heavens. The question reminded us of something Sensei Gleason often says in class when explaining an... [more] - Celestial Globe Setup

 

October 4, 2011- What we don't know...

Some of us have been studying Aikido for a long time. Our Aikido teacher, Gleason Sensei, is fond of telling us "...the more you learn, the more you will know how little you really understand..." To anyone who has devoted serious study to any subject, Gleason Sensei's statement will sound familiar. Interestingly enough, Sensei's statement is probably truer today than at any other time in history.Take, for example, this year's Nobel Prize for Physics.

It has been known for about a hundred years that the universe is expanding, and has been doing so for about 15 billion years (give or take a few). This knowledge has given rise to the two-part question: Will the expansion end, and if so, when? Thirteen years ago, astronomers Saul Perlmutter, Brian Schmidt, and Adam Riess shook the foundation of the physics world with their observation that the expansion of the universe is... [more] - What we don't know

 

October 3, 2011- Otterbox iPhone lens case...

We are always looking for accessories which will enable us to extend what we can do with the iPhone 4. Lens attachments for the phone's 5-megapixel camera are such an accessory. Brando's inexpensive macro lens converts the iPhone into a fairly capable microscope. The Pixeet fisheye lens enables anyone to take 180º images and make immersive panoramas. These two lenses are tiny enough to bring everywhere. However, as with any optical gear, we thought they deserved a proper case and not just tossed into a backpack or jacket pocket unprotected.

Whenever we think of protecting gear, Otterbox is the first name that pops to mind. They make cases that are tough, water-proof, and come in a wide variety of sizes and colors. The Otterbox 1000 is the smallest one in their collection and it is the perfect size for our project. We like the clear case because it makes it easy to see what is inside. Some Otterbox cases come with... [more] - Otterbox iPhone lens case

 

September 30, 2011- A Day In Pompeii...

The eruption of Mount Vesuvious on August 24, AD 79 must have been terrifying to the inhabitants of Pompeii. In less than a day, this thriving Roman city of 20,000 was buried by over 15 feet of volcanic ash. Everything, and everyone who did not escape, lay entombed for 1,700 years until scientists and archaeologists began uncovering it in 1860. The initial excavation took 15 years and gave the world a glimpse of what daily life was like 2,000 years ago.

Starting this weekend, Bostonians will have an opportunity to step back in time and take a first-hand look thanks to the Museum Of Science's new exhibit A Day In Pompeii. This amazing exhibition is presented in partnership with Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei (SANP). RainyDayMagazine got a FirstLook at it last night and... [more] - MOS: A Day In Pompeii

 

September 27, 2011- Pixeet Panorama Kit...

Accessories for the iPhone have typically been limited to skins, cases, and other protective gear. With the introduction of front and back cameras, items such as lenses have occassionally popped up. The iPhone 4 has been used successfully as a digital microscope as well as an astrophotographic imager. A few years ago, a Japanese company called Digital King created a fisheye lens for the iPhone. It met with limited success. Recently, a company call Pixeet rebranded the lens under its own name, added a case and some free software, and bundled it into a much more compelling offering.

The Pixeet Panorama Kit consists of a 180º fisheye lens, a silicone case, and some misc bits (mounts for other phones, lens retaining cord). The fisheye lens is well constructed of aluminum and glass. It attaches to the case using magnets. This approach is pretty clever as it... [more] - Pixeet Panorama Kit: 180º Fisheye Lens

 

September 15, 2011- NeuroSky MindWave...

The idea of a brain-computer interface (BCI) has been the stuff of science fiction since the invention of the computer. There are the obvious applications and situations where a direct connection between a user and a computer is advantageous. Having thoughts translated into action is appealing for a lot of reasons: speed, stealth, being hands-free/remote-control.

A company called NeuroSky came onto the market with low-cost technologies which enabled EEG signals to be extracted from the surface of a person's head, a very technically challenging signal filtering task. In the past, researchers had to shave a subject's head and attach sensors to the bare skin with gel in order to get a decent signal. NeuroSky's approach did away with all of that. Being the first BCI technology low-cost enough for the... [more] - NeuroSky MindWave FirstLook

 

September 13, 2011- Celestial Globe...

Celestial globes have been the means by which astronomers charted the heavens since ancient times. The first recorded solar eclipse was made by the Chinese in 2136 BC. Chinese observatories were built which date back hundreds of years prior to that. The oldest surviving celestial globe (1144 AD) is from the Islamic world and is currently in the Louvre. Today, we have iPad apps like Vito Technolog's Star Walk and Emerald Sequoia's Observatory to give us precise positions of all the heavenly bodies. Those apps not only tell us what is up in the sky now, but how things appeared or may appear at any point in time. Still, there is nothing like a celestial globe to give one the overall perspective of the heavens.

We have looked at a few of these globes (iOptron LiveStar, Stellanova) in the past. They are good for some things, not so good for others. They show the relationship of the various constellations, but it is difficult to see how... [more] - Celestial Globe FirstLook

 

September 12, 2011- Brimfield Vintage Tech...

We were out at Brimfield in July for their giant antique show. We planned to do the same this past Thursday for the start of the Fall show, but the torrential rain changed our plans. The skies finally cleared on Saturday. We left Boston before 8 AM, had breakfast at a diner on the edge of town, and made it to the show before the crowd.

All the rain definitely had an impact, both on the number of vendors and the overall attendance at the show. Many parts of the fields were still soggy and walking around was sloppy at times. Fortunately, the weather for antiquing was perfect on Saturday (sunny, cool, dry) and attendess did start to show around lunch time. One of the benefits of a smaller crowd was... [more] - Brimfield Antique Show: Vintage Tech

 

September 8, 2011- Sugru Hacks...

If you don't know what Sugru is, check out our FirstLook post. If you have ever looked at something and thought "if only...," then this stuff was created for you! The stuff was created by people-who-love-to-hack for people-who-want-to-hack, even if they don't know it...yet.

Sugru comes in a few basic colors and can be combined to create lots of different shades. The stuff feels like putty. It can be moulded, shaped, and worked just like putty. It will cure in about 24 hours. Once cured, the stuff is... [more] - Sugru Hacks

 

September 1, 2011- Boogie Board Hack...

The new 10.5" version of the Boogie Board is a nice follow-up to the original. We gave you a quick FirstLook of the unit last week, but thought a closer look was warranted.

Boogie Board writing tablets are a tree-friendly alternative to the traditional memo pads, sticky notes, and dry erase boards. The new unit is 50% larger, has an integrated pen holder, and is powered by user-replaceable batteries. The designers maintained the Boogie Board's thin profile by... [more] - Boogie Board Hack

 

August 29, 2011- Sugru FirstLook...

We battened down all the hatches this past weekend and managed to weather Hurricane Irene without incident. Rainy days are good for watching TV or doing projects. We spent two days watching back to back episodes of the BBC series MI-5. If we had gotten off our butts and looked at some of the stuff which came on Friday, we would have seen that we had received a shipment of Sugru. If we had, how we spent our weekend might have taken a completely different turn.

The name Sugru is an Irish word "sugradh" for "play", but what is Sugru? The better question is not what is it (silicone elastomer), but what you can do with it. According to the instructions, Sugru is designed to... [more] - Sugru FirstLook

 

August 25, 2011- Nixie Tubes...

The photo of the Digital Readout unit from our Craigslist purchase got the emails flowing. Many of you were eager to share your stories of nixie tube projects. Apparently, nixie tubes are very popular for DIY project and are all the rage with the Steampunk crowd. We didn't know :-)

We did a bit more research on nixie tubes and learned that while they may look like vacuum tubes, they are actually closer to neon lamps. They are often used to display numbers, but can be made to display other symbols. Their popularity as numberic indicators was because all ten numerials (0-9) can fit inside a tube, one behind the other. A number is made to glow by... [more] - Nixie Tubes

 

August 24, 2011- Toolmaker's Microscope...

The RainyDayInterns are tasked with scouring Craigslist and flagging anything which may be interesting to use for DIY projects. We never know what they will find, but they often come up with some pretty cool stuff. A few months ago, they saw a listing for an intriguing microscope. The seller had acquired the scope as part of a purchase of an entire machine shop. The new owner was clearing out equipment which were of no use to him, and so the scope was for sale. We made an offer, but couldn't come to an agreement on the price. Last Sunday, the interns came across the same listing, now priced lower than what we had originally offered. The owner was happy to sell it to us as he did not want to see it go to a scrap yard.

The microscope is a toolmaker's microscope. It is model 98-0001 made by Scherr Tumico. Toolmaker microscopes are used for many purposes. They are used by machinists to... [more] - Scherr Tumico Toolmaker's Microscope

 

August 23, 2011- Two Hundred Light Years...

Perspective: One can get it when one looks at things from a new or different vantage point. Having the proper perspective is important in contemplating everyday things. It is also helpful when thinking about somewhat bigger things.

We StumbleUpon-ed the image above while "working." The image is of a spiral galaxy similar in size to the Milky Way galaxy in which our solar system resides. What really put things into perspective for us was what it was illustrating. Our own Milky Way galaxy is about... [more] - Two Hundred Light Years

 

August 22, 2011- The Ultimate Night Vision...

Wild Planet's SpyGear line is an amazing collection of gadgets for the James Bond/Lara Croft in all of us. So we are always thrilled when a box labeled "SpyGear" shows up on our desk. While we never know what we are going to find, but if it is from Wild Planet, we know it will be fun.

This time, the SpyGear box contained a pair of Ultimate Night Vision (UNV) binoculars. Unlike the Wild Planet SpyVision goggles we've looked at previously, these use infrared to (invisibly) light up the scene. The box states that these binoculars are the ultimate in... [more] - SpyGear: The Ultimate Night Vision

 

August 17, 2011- Manga Guide: The Universe...

We have read a few of the books (Electricity, Molecular Biology, Databases) in the Manga Guide collection and have found them to be both entertaining and educational. In June, we recommended the Manga Guide To Relativity as one of the books for our Summer reading list. It was a great read and it did not take long to finish. We were left wanting. Fortunately for us, the Manga Guide to the Universe showed up in our mailbox soon after.

The Manga Guide to The Universe is for anyone interested in cosmology, from high school students to adults. Like the other books in the Manga series, the subject matter is told in the style of a graphic novel.Unlike a typical comics, there are more detail treatments of the subjects along with the fun storyline. The story follows Gloria and her friends Kanna and Yamane as they try tol... [more] - Manga Guide: The Universe

 

July 29, 2011- ThermaCELL FirstLook...

Mosquitos and other biting insects are just a part of Summer. Some years are better than others. Depending on the amount of rain the number of mosquitos buzzing around ranges from annoying to intolerable, especially for those of us who seem to be tastier to these pests than the average Joe.

N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide or DEET is the ingredient of choice for many mosquito repellent products. DEET was developed by the US Army for use in jungle warfare in WWII. Its effectiveness in repelling mosquito is undisputed. However, as DEET also blocks the activities of acetylcholinesterase (an enzyme which is involved in muscle activities), it can have adverse health effects with prolong exposure. Besides, anything which can dissolve some plastics, rayon, spandex, other synthetic fabrics can't be all that good for the body. This was one of the reasons why we were excited to check out the ThermaCELL...it does not use DEET as the repellent. Instead, the active ingredient is an EPA approved synthetic copy of... [more] - ThermaCELL FirstLook

 

July 8, 2011- Last Space Shuttle Flight...

NASA's Space Shuttle program began almost forty years ago. Today, it blasted off for the last time. When the program was officially launched by President Nixon on January 5, 1972. The goal for NASA was to develop a reusable space shuttle system which could handle as much as 50 missions per year. While NASA never came close to those number of launches, it did managed to do it 135 times. With the reduced number of missions, the original hope of cost reduction ($7M/launch est. vs > $800M/lauch actual) never materialized. The total price tag of the program has been estimated to be between $115 billion to over $200 billion. For numerous reasons (accounting methods, what to include, who paid for what, etc...), the true cost is difficult to pin down.

Whether the Space Shuttle program was worth the cost paid has been and will continue to be the subject of debate for a long time. Nonetheless, it is undeniable that the reusable Shuttle has given scientists... [more]- Last Space Shuttle Flight

 

July 1, 2011- Backyard Adventures...

A bright red cardinal has been visiting the bird feeder in the RainyDayGarden these past few weeks. For days, we have been stalking this elusive visitor, but despite our efforts we came up empty.

One would think it should be easy to get a photo of the cardinal: set up the camera, autofocus on the feeder, wait for the visitor. We could hear it singing up in the tree. Occasionally, it would do a fly-over of the feeder. However, it almost seemed like it knew what we were trying to do and didn't want any part of it. Maybe it was because of the interns, maybe it was... [more]- Backyard Adventures

 

June 28, 2011- Clayton Boyer: Clock designer...

After we did the FirstLook of the Rockwell BladeRunner, the interns brainstormed about what would be a good FirstUse project to throw at it. One day the interns rushed in, very excited, and exclaimed that they had found the perfect project to test out the BladeRunner: they had discovered the wooden clocks of Clayton Boyer.

Interns...they are so enthusiastic. We didn't have the heart to tell them that we were well aware of Mr. Boyer and his amazing wooden clock designs, moreover that we had already saved some room in this Winter's RainyDayProjects schedule to build some of the clocks. However, as we had not... [more]- Clayton Boyer: Clock Designer

 

June 24, 2011- National Geographic DVDs...

If you have ever had a subscription to National Geographic you know how hard it is to throw an issue out after reading it. For us, it was impossbile. We would put every issue and map in order by year, put them in slip sleeves, and neatly arrange them on the shelves. And we were happy.

After many years, though, our shelves ran out of room and we were not able to accommodate any more National Geographics in the library. Instead of letting issues pile up in a corner, we sadly decided to cancel our subscription. We have always wished we had another option. Fifteen years later we still... [more]- National Geographic DVDs

 

June 10, 2011- Thunder clouds...

The 90º heat in Boston finally broke yesterday and it did it in dramatic fashion. Around 4PM in the afteroon, clouds started to form overhead. In the span of less than thirty minutes, the sky got dark, the wind picked up, and flashes of lightning streaked across the sky. It had a kind of "wrath of God" feel to it all. Which immediately led to the thought..."Cool! Thunderclouds! Wonder if we'll need a polarizer?"

We had considered setting things up to see if we could capture some of the lightning strikes, but decided it was probably prudent to not bring too much gear out as the situation could get really wet really fast. Shooting with the D90/18-200mm with VR active, we took a series of... [more]- Thunderclouds

 

June 6, 2011- MOS: Dinosaurs...

We here at RainyDayMagazine are fascinated by dinosaurs. While decendents of dinosaurs are all around us (birds, reptiles, etc...) none of them are of the size of the ones which roamed the Earth eons ago. Dinosaurs bones have been discovered all around the world. Petroglyphs made by American Indians may have depicted these creatures. Records of "dragon" bones found in Wucheng Sichuan date as far back as 2,000 years ago. As to the term "dinosaur" or "terrible lizard," it was the British scientist Richard Owen who coined it in 1842. What scientists know about these creatures is constantly being revised as new discoveries and technologies are brought to bear on the study of these fossils. CT scans, computer simulations, and biomechanically accurate modeling have enabled paleontologists to form and test new theories about these mysterious giants.

This weekend, the Museum Of Science (MOS) unveiled a new temporary exhibit, Dinosaurs: Ancient Fossils, New Discoveries, that showcases some of these latest findings. "People of all ages will be captivated as they walk back millions of years to discover how science and technology are revolutionizing what we know about dinosaurs, how they looked, and how they behaved," says Paul Fontaine, MOS vice president of education." This amazing exhibit combines major fossil finds, casts, and computer animations with striking... [more]- Dinosaurs: Ancient Fossils, New Discoveries

 

May 20, 2011- PED3 Mount...

When we mentioned that we were looking for an appropriate tripod mount for the iPhone, a few readers pointed us to a couple of possibilities. Of all the suggestions, the unit from ThoughtOut appeared to be the best one for our application. The major pieces (grip, stem, arm) are made of metal, the tips are rubber-coated, and the design does not interfere with the macro lens protruding from the iPhone.

Assembly of the PED3 mount was quick and simple: insert arm into stem; thread mount onto tripod; slide in phone; adjust grip. We should note that it is a good idea to make sure the phone is secured in the cradle before moving the... [more]- PED3 Mount

 

May 19, 2011- Lensbaby Macro...

We have been on a bit of a macro-photography binge lately. We have done some fun and creative things with the Lensbaby in the past. A recent "ah ha" moment led us to realize that it may be interesting to mount the Lensbaby onto a bellows and use it as a macro lens. While we know we could mount the lens, we were not sure if we could get it to focus.

There are macro accessories for the Lensbaby 3G lens. However, the bellows, if it works, would give us the option of playing with the amount of magnification on the fly. The downside is that the rig would be... [more]- Lensbaby Macro

 

May 16, 2011- iPhone Microscope Outside...

Last week we posted a write-up of the Brando iPhone4 microscope lens. It generated a bit of email asking if the setup is at all practical out "in the field." It was a fair question, as all of the sample images provided in the article were taken inside under controlled conditions. This weekend was overcast, in the mid-60ºs, and had a light breeze. Those were fairly reasonable conditions for seeing out how the iPhone4 microscope would perform InTheWild.

The advantage of using the iPhone4 camera outside during the day is that there is plenty of light. However, having TOO much light can overwhelm the camera's sensor. The day being bright but overcast was a huge benefit as the diffused light lit the plants without creating hard edges and harsh shadows. Another benefit of a cloudy day was that it was easier to... [more]- iPhone Microscope Outside

 

May 12, 2011- Philips Wake-up Light...

Waking up well is as important as sleeping well, especially if you have to wake up before first light. Research has shown that light is an essential signal which can boost both mood and energy levels. For folks who must get out of be before sunrise, the lack of morning light can make getting up difficult. While getting the right amount of sleep is still required, technology has made waking up a lot more pleasant.

In March, we posted a FirstLook of the Wake-up Light from Philips. The idea behind the Wake-up light is to gradual, 30-minute, increase in the intensity of the light from the lamp prior to the desired wake up time. At the preset time, the Wake-up Light will activate one of two pleasant sounds (birds chirping, beep) or the FM radio. So instead of being jarred awake by a... [more]- Philips Wake-up Light FirstUse

 

May 10, 2011- iPhone Microscope...

We came across a DIY article on the Crabfu Artworks website last September on how to turn the iPhone into a portable digital microscope. We thought the idea was ingenious. Apparently, so did the company that makes the lens. They thought the hack was so cool that they started shipping the lens with a slip-on iPhone4 cover. We got one and have been playing with it for a bit. Of all the iPhone accessories which come across our desks daily, this one from Brando is quickly becoming a favorite.

For an inexpensive little gadget, this tiny lens is more complicated than we expected. The housing of the lens and sleeve are made of plastic. The lens can extend in the sleeve to adjust and accommodate different minimum focus distances of various cell phone cameras. A clear brace is positioned at the end of the lens so the light from the LED can shine on through onto the... [more]- iPhone Microscope

 

May 5, 2011- Peterson Engineering's Get-A-Grip...

What is the best way of pickup a telescope that's the size of a keg of beer? Bear hugging it is our typical approach. While the mounting assistant makes it easy to secure on the tripod, carrying the body around is both uncomfortable and unwieldy. When we saw Peterson Engineering's Get-A-Grip at NEAF, we knew it was something we wanted add to our 10" LX200 GPS scope.

Pete Peterson created the Get-A-Grip handles for the 12" and bigger Meade LX series of telescopes. The handles are direct replacements for those that come with the large scopes. For those who want to add these handles to scopes 10" or smaller, mounting holes must be drilled. To make it easy, Peterson Enginnering included all of the pieces (stainless steel screws, nuts, drill bit) required... [more]- Get-A-Grip FirstLook

 

Apr 28, 2011- NEAF 2011: Expo wrap up...

This is the final installment of the 2011 NEAF Conference write-ups. It was our first time attending the Expo and it was excellent. We got to meet and chat with like-minded folks, listened to some interesting talks, and had plenty of hands-on time with all kinds of equipment. In this last post, we thought we would cover a few of the more unusual things we saw at the show.

We first came across Fullum-built telescopes last Summer at the World Science Festival om NYC, and were happy to come across them again at NEAF. By combining world class hand-made optics with... [more]- NEAF 2011: Wrap up

 

Apr 27, 2011- NEAF 2011: Soar Party...

Not all astronomy has to be done at night. Some of the most interesting stuff happens during the day. The downside is there is really only one thing to look at during the day, the Sun. Of course, just because there is only one thing to see does not mean it will be boring. The Sun is an amazing to look at and utterly fascinating object to study.

Solar activities are not just visual curiosities; they can have immediate, direct, and substantial impact here on Earth. In fact, NASA is devoting a lot of resources (Solar Dynamic Observatory, Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, Hinode) to monitoring and reporting on what is happening with our Sun. While not as popular as night astronomy, amateurs are increasingly... [more]- NEAF 2011: Solar Party

 

Apr 26, 2011- NEAF 2011...

Astronomy may be the most accessible of the scientific disciplines to the general public. All that is really needed is a clear night, a comfortable chair, and a pair of binoculars. Of course, that does not mean a little gear wouldn't add to the enjoyment of looking up at the night sky. Every year those who have been bitten by the astronomy bug gather at the Northeast Astronomy Forum (NEAF) and Telescope Show to look at gear, share stories, and to generally have a great time.

NEAF and the Telescope Show is presented by the Rockland Astronomy Club of Suffern NY, and is the biggest telescope show in the world. We decided to drive down from Boston to see it for ourselves. The two-day event featured world-renowned speakers, workshops, special events, and over... [more]- NEAF 2011

 

Apr 19, 2011- ACM:Hand-Gesture Apps...

A few years ago, Jeff Han gave a demo of a low-cost way to create large multi-touch surfaces using the FTIR technique. The talk generated a lot of excitement and a surge of DIY projects on how to build multi-touch screens and tables. We started a RainyDayProject and assembled the parts needed (directions, projector, LEDs) to put a multi-touch table together. The project never got past the planning stage because we realized a practical flaw with the system. The resolution of inexpensive LCD projectors are so much lower then most computer systems. This would make any system we make very expensive to upgrade, and so the project was shelved.

On Nov 4, 2010 Microsoft released the Kinect accessory for the XBox 360 gaming system. In a matter of days (three to be exact), the Kinect was hacked to enable it to do a lot more than just talk to the XBox. Since we are not big gamers, we hadn't paid much attention to the Kinect until... [more]-Hand-Gesture Apps

 

Apr 14, 2011- iPad Microscope...

Yesterday we mentioned that the Flip camcorder was taken off the market by Cisco. One of the reasons for the Flip's demise may be the ubiquity of camera and video recording capabilities in portable devices such as smartphones and iPods. When Apple upgraded the iPad, they added no less than two cameras to the tablet: a front-facing camera for use with FaceTime video-conferencing, a rear-facing camera for photos and video recording.

Apple clearly made some trade-offs (resolution, cost, power consumption, etc...) when choosing the cameras for the iPad2. According to Apple, the rear camera can take 720p videos. This translates to images with a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels (0.92MB). Apple realizes the technical details of the cameras were nothing to crow about and has pretty much left it off the iPad2 spec sheet. However, just because the iPad2's current cameras are pretty lame from a specs perspective, the addition of a camera to the iPad's large portable multi-touch screen can be a powerful combination.

Last Summer, we reviewed a bunch of digital microscopes for RainyDayScience's BackyardBiotech project. We found the microscopes to be suitable but impractical for field use. We tried to find a way to attach one of those digital microscopes to the iPad. Even thought they were all USB devices, none of them were supported on the iPad. When Apple announced that the iPad2 would have... [more]-iPad Microscope

 

Mar 28, 2011- Philips Wake-up Light...

Some people wake up to the sun; others wake up whenever they please. Most of us wake up when the alarm clock goes off. However, research is starting to come out that being jolted out of a deep sleep may not be the best for one's health. Fortunately, research also shows that exposure to the right type of light can help align our daily rhythms and can make us feel more energetic.

The National Sleep Foundation has chosen the Philips Wake up Light as its Official Light Therapy Product in recognition of the benefits it provide in helping people wake-up better. The Wake-up Light works by... [more]- Philips Wake-up Light FirstLook

 

Mar 23, 2011- Fab@Home...

Love making stuff? Need a special part? Want it NOW? These are just a few of the reasons why Fab@Home is the gathering place for DIY-ers the world over. What began as a project for a couple of Cornellians back in 2006 has turned into a global hangout for those who likes to get their hands dirty.

The heart of the Fab@Home movement is the computer numerical control (CNC) machine. A CNC device is a computer controller that reads instructions and drives a machine tool which can "make" things with precision and repeatability. CNC machines used to be available only at large manufacturing facilities (auto, aerospace, etc...). Today, CNC machines are affordable for small businesses and shops, but are still out of reach for the... [more]- fab@home

 

Mar 17, 2011- Tornado Alley...

Spring is in the air. The temperature in Boston has been in the mid-50s and may even break 60º this weekend. The giant piles of snow from the innumerable Winter storms have disappeared. We spotted the first crocus bloom in the RainyDayGarden yesterday. While Spring in New England is generally mild, for our friends in the mid-west it marks the start of tornado season. "Tornado alley" stretches from Texas to Nebraska, and every season brings anxiety, danger, and destruction.

What, exactly, is a tornado? One of nature's most violent storms, tornadoes are fast-spinning columns of air that extend from the base of a thunderstorm down to the ground, with wind speeds up to 300 miles per hour. They can appear suddenly and without warning. With paths in excess of... [more]- MOS: Tornado Alley

 

Mar 7, 2011- Plasma ThunderBall FirstLook...

What is plasma? This glowing, ethereal condition is often known as the forth state of matter. More specifically, Plasma is the gaseous state of matter where gas has been energized to the point that some of its electrons have broken free from--but still travel with--the nucleus of the molecule. Things glow when the molecules calm down, and give up some of its energy in the form of light.

The plasma lamp was invented by our hero, Nikola Tesla. His research into high-frequency and high-voltage phenomena led him to create what he called the Inert Gas Discharge Tube. Most of us know it today as the fluorescent tube. The construction is fairly straight-forward: a glass enclosure containing... [more]- Plasma ThunderBall FirstLook

 

Feb 23, 2011- Delta at the scrap yard...

The more we recycle, the less demand we put on our environment. Scrap metal has been one of the biggest exports out of North America in recent years, mainly because of the increase in demand for base metals (it's far less expensive to recycle metal than it is to create from new). Scrap copper prices are an indicator of the general rise in scrap prices: current pricing is around $3.90/pound, in 2006 it was around $2.80/pound. The price of commodities are continuing to go up and the demand from the rest of the world is not showing any signs of slowing down.

Run intelligently, a recycling business can be quite profitable. The key is to be able to accurately grade the incoming materials so they can be properly sorted and processed. The Olympus Innov-X XRF Delta we looked at yesterday is the perfect tool for the... [more]- Delta at the scrap yard

 

Feb 22, 2011- XRF DELTA...

There are a LOT of cool, cutting-edge high-tech companies in Massachusetts, so many that we tend to take them for granted. Some of them, like Genzyme, are public, high profile, and very well known. Genzyme was in the news recently because of the sale to Sanofi-Aventis SA for $20.1 billion plus. Others are relatively small, private, but very well known to those in their area of expertise. Olympus Innov-X is of the latter. Olympus Innov-X has been around since 2001. Olympus Innov-X Systems manufactures and sells portable x-ray based analytical instruments for non-destructive analysis. Last Summer, Olympus Innov-X was acquired by Olympus NDT, a subsidiary of global company Olympus Corporation of Japan.

A few days ago, we had an opportunity to take a look at one of Olympus Innov-X's handheld analytical analyzers called the DELTA Classic. The DELTA is a tube-based portable X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer. This handheld analyzer enables non-destructive, laboratory-grade, on-site testing and analysis of samples. The Olympus Innov-X analyzers provide analysis of elements such as... [more]- XRF DELTA FirstLook

 

Feb 14, 2011- Valentine's Day...

How better to demonstrate your love for your honey-bunny, pookie-bear, or snugglie-poo than by mathematically plotting a heart in three-dimensional space? The best part? It is actually really simple!

There is a lot of scientific and visualization software which can do a fine job of plotting out some simple (love) equations. If you have a Mac running OSX, though, you already have everything you need. In the Utilities folder, there is a little application called Grapher, which is a... [more]- Heart Equations

 

Feb 10, 2011- MOS Planetarium FirstLook...

For the past year, the Museum of Science has been busy renovating the Hayden Planetarium. This Sunday, the Planetarium will reopen it doors and unveil to the public the most technologically advanced digital theater in New England. The yearlong $9 million renovation was funded through private donations and the Charles Hayden Foundation. The RainyDayMagazine crew was on hand for the preview of both the new theater and a new original astronomy show, Undiscovered Worlds: The Search Beyond Our Sun, last night.

In the center of the newly renovated dome-shaped, 209 seat, theater is the state-of-the-art Zeiss StarMaster projector. Supporting the Zeiss StarMaster are immersive full-dome video projectors and an upgraded audio system. The video projectors are the Sony SXRD 4K Digital units. They have a resolution that is 4x higher than the HDTV screen in most homes. Besides flying viewers around the universe, the ultra-HD projection and animation system can be used to... [more]- Hayden Planetarium FirstLook

 

Feb 8, 2011- Pelican Case Retrofit...

We posted a FirstLook of a telecope transport case yesterday. The case was originally designed for the military to protect and ship electronic equipment. It happens to also be perfectly sized for transporting a Meade 10" LX200 telescope. We also mentioned we will be retrofiting our Pelican 1650 case to carry the NexStar C6 optical tube assembler (OTA).

We got our replacement foam for the Pelican 1650 from Case2Go. There are four pieces in the set. The "egg crate" layer is for the top cover. There are two four-inch thick pick-n-pluck pieces and a 1" thick bottom layer. It is clear the Pelican case would have no trouble accommodating the 6" OTA. However, there a a few other pieces of equipment which we need along with the OTA. Each piece of gear came with its own carry case. All that protection can take up quite a bit of room. It would be great if we could arrange the layout such that... [more]- Pelican Case retrofit

 

Feb 7, 2011- LX200 Telescope Case...

The interns have been researching various options for transporting the two telescopes. There are few telescope case makers and their cases are typically custom-fit units and as such, quite pricey. However, as we have shown with the Celestron C8, cases such as the Pelican 1650 can be easily adapted for telescope transport. We have obtained a set of replacement foam from Case2Go for the 1650. Since the Pelican 1650 was large enough to handle the C8, it should have no problem handling the smaller NexStar C6. Case2Go is the go-to source for all kinds of pick-n-pluck foam, waterproof cases, and equipment transport solutions of all sizes.

We would have gone with Case2Go for a case for the Meade 10" LX200 scope as well had we not come across a military-surplus option. The interns stumbled upon a year-old post on an astronomy forum discussion about alternative cases for transporting a 10" LX200. One of the responders, Scott, mentioned he had a military-surplus case. As he no longer has the 10" scope, he was happy to give it away to anyone willing to pay the shipping cost. However, since the discussion was over a year-old, the case was probably... [more]- LX200 Telescope Case

 

Jan 31, 2011- Museum Of Science Planetarium...

The stars have fascinated all who has looked up at them on a clear night. Those who love them are constantly trying to find ways to enjoy them whenever they can. We looked at one of those ways with the iOptron LiveStar earlier in the month.

For the past fifty years, the Charles Hayden Planetarium at the Museum of Science has been the place to go learn about the stars, the planets, and all things celestrial. Here is a quick timeline of... [more]- Museum Of Science Planetarium

 

Jan 20, 2011- Meade RCX400 Tripod comparison...

Yesterday we took a FirstLook at our newly acquired Meade RCX400 Ultra-Stable tripod. Weighing in at close to 60 lbs, this tripod is a beast. However, since it can be taken apart it is actually easier to transport than many other smaller telescope tripods. When we were doing our research on the RCX400 tripod, we were especially interested in seeing the difference in the thickness of the legs and mount as compared to other tripods. Unfortunately, we were unable to find any good comparison articles with other units. Now that we have the RCX400 Ultra-Stable tripod in house, we aim to rectify that issue.

Today, we are going to compare the RCX400 tripod with some of the other tripods we have, especially against the OEM tripod which was supplied with our 10" LX200 GPS telescope. We hope this comparison will be helpful to... [more]- Meade RCX400 Tripod Comparison

 

Jan 19, 2011- Meade RCX400 Tripod...

Bigger is definitely better when it comes to telescope tripods. The main reason is telescopes are very sensitive to vibrations. The sturdier the tripod, the better the stability. The better the stability, the better for viewing and imaging. To that end, we are always on the lookout for beefier tripods. A few months ago, we found a used tripod from a Meade RCX-400 up for sale. We made an offer, but the seller was hoping to get more for it. A higher offer did not materialize, we went a few more rounds with the seller, and finally came to an agreement.

The tripod arrived this week in two very large boxes, the sum of which were over sixty pounds. This thing is MASSIVE. All of the pieces are made from aluminum. Really thick pieces of aluminum. Unlike our other tripods, the head and the legs are... [more]- Meade RCX400 Tripod

Jan 18, 2011- Superfocus 3D hack...

Stereoscopic photos have been around since the 1800s. Widespread interest in them never really materialized outside of the various blips in popularity (ViewMaster, computer graphics, etc...). However, 3D is seeing another surge in popularity because digital photography has made it easier to create stereopscopic images. The benefit of digital photography is once you have the equipment, it costs almost nothing to experiment.

The problem with stereoscopic images is that special viewers (stereoscopes, glasses) are needed to see the 3D effect. Having to wear the special glasses is annoying if you have normal vision, but it is actually a problem if... [more]- Superfocus 3D hack

 

Jan 14, 2011- iOptron LiveStar Planetarium...

Last January we got a gift of a wonderful globe made by Stellanova. It glowed from the inside, illuminating all of the constellations on its surface. The globe is beautiful, and makes for a terrific lamp when we need just a little bit of light. Yesterday, we got something that looks similar to the Stellanova globe but does quite a bit more. It is a personal planetarium called LiveStar by iOptron.

The LiveStar Planetarium is a desk-top sized rotating globe covered by a star map. In the middle of the globe is a small light. The globe and the light are mounted on a rotatable stem. The globe, shelf, and base of the LiveStar are made of plastic. The lettering on the dials and knobs are decals. While the LiveStar is... [more]- iOptron LiveStar Planetarium

 

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