As you may or may not know, just over a month ago, hackaday.com featured my Electron Tree Bridal Gifts. This resulted in a lot of interest and literally doubled this site’s overall views in just two days. So I’m taking this opportunity to say “Thank You Hackaday!” and add a link to the side bar.
Hackaday really is a great site if you’re into engineering, electronics, programming or any kind of homebrew design and manufacture, and it constantly amazes me how much ingenuity there is out there. There really is something for everyone, from Light up Christmas Earrings and Halloween Door Knockers to a Barn Door Tracker for Astronomical Photography and a Refrigerated Draught Beer Station.
Charlie’s brain went on holiday briefly the other evening and she asked me this
“Are Flamingos birds? I’m just checking in case they were mammals or something.”
I’ll give her a break as she’s been ill and what with the post wedding blues and all, although I may have to keep her away from the cats for a few days.
So, Charlie and I are married and back from our wonderful honeymoon in Sorrento, Italy. We had such a great time but I nearly ruined it by having an itty bitty accident on our second night there.
I woke up in the middle of night to answer a call of nature, noticing at the time I was a lot more groggy than I normally would be. However, I shook it off and went to the bathroom.
So, about a second into the deed I realised I was creating quite a bit of noise, and fearing I would wake Charlie I adjusted my aim, to be a little quieter (I’m trying to be tactful here). Still feeling a little groggy I closed my eyes, thinking to myself “Don’t fall asleep”.
Can you guess what happened next?
I awoke on the marble floor of the bathroom, being cradled by Charlie who was yelling “Are you alive?”.
I had fallen to sleep; an instant, deep sleep. I had then fallen, hitting the bidet on my right side, injuring my ribs. This was incredibly lucky, however, as the impact with the bidet had redirected my fall, causing me to twist and land on the floor facing the opposite direction, avoiding any head trauma on the marble fixtures at all.
Also luckily, I had awoken Charlie despite trying not to. She heard my impact with the bidet and, after receiving no reply to her calls, she came to investigate and found me prostrate and unconscious.
Once I awoke, I was confused to say the least, I had fallen into such a deep sleep so quickly that I hadn’t even been aware of the fall or impact, and couldn’t remember the fine details of the period just before falling asleep until the following morning.
Once again I was lucky as the injury I received to my ribs didn’t cause me much of a problem at all whilst on honeymoon, it was sore at times but most of the time I didn’t really notice it. In fact it is only now it is starting to feel more achey.
I do however believe that had I not hit the bidet and been redirected I would certainly have smashed my head against a hard surface in the all marble bathroom, bringing our honeymoon, if not our marriage to an untimely end.
The moral of the story people is this; Bidets save lives.
Or sit down when you pee in the middle of the night, your choice.
*Update 29/09/13. I’m back from honeymoon and have fixed the file downloads, sorry about that, the cause was a conflict between some apps*
*Update 17/09/13. I have been informed that some people have been having trouble downloading the source code, as I’m on honeymoon at the moment I only have an iPhone so I can’t even check the link. Rest assured I will sort it when I’m back in the UK*
*Update 16/09/13. These have now been featured on hackaday. How awesome is that?!*
So the big day has finally arrived and Charlie and I are getting married! Don’t worry I’m not actually blogging from our wedding, this post has been written in advance.
I can now tell you about a little project (actually it was not-so little) we have undertaken, Charlie and I have designed and created some rather unique gifts for our bridesmaids, best man and page boy. Electron trees with their own colour cycling illuminated stands.
What is an electron tree? Also known as Lichtenberg Figures or Captured Lightning, they are what can be created by firing a beam of high energy electrons at a piece of acrylic and then striking the acrylic with a grounded stud.
The high energy electrons come to rest within the acrylic and form a plane of charge, once the grounding stud strikes the acrylic, a discharge path is created and all the electrons shoot to ground like a lightning strike, burning a path as they go.
What remains after the discharge is a block with a preserved representation of the path the charge travelled to get to ground, which as well as being an example of a fractal is a beautiful and interesting thing to behold, especially when lit up from below.
Every electron tree is completely unique and, as a linear accelerator is required to create one; they are extremely rare. As one of the clinical linear accelerators where I work was soon to be decommissioned, I had an opportunity to create some.
Most electron trees are square or rectangular, as creating other acrylic shapes is labour intensive and time consuming. But, after finding some acrylic contact juggling balls on eBay; we decided spherical electron trees would be the way to go. We couldn’t think of anything better to give to the people taking part in our special day!
Making the Stand
To best present our gifts we knew we would need a light up stand on which to mount them, and so we headed to Southerndown Beach, near Cardiff; a location Doctor Who fans will know as Bad Wolf Bay. Our objective: hunt down a piece of driftwood that could be crafted into stands for our unique gifts.
After spending a few hours hunting for a decent piece, and watching people walk past in the other direction having found some great lumps of wood themselves, we started to think we would never find anything usable, then we found a piece of tree that wasn’t quite what we were after, but it might do the job.
However, once I started to chop up this log into smaller, usable chunks, I couldn’t believe our luck! The wood had some lovely, colourful spalting running through it, and would make a very attractive set of stands.
The Technical Bit
For the lighting, I decided to use three colours of ultra-bright LED’s, each fading in and out in sequence to create a host of different colours as they mix in different ratios. In order to achieve the fading effect I decided to use Pulse Width Modulation (PWM).
For this application I found the PIC12F1501 Microcontroller; a small 8 pin, relatively new addition to Microchip’s collection with 4 PWM outputs, as well as an amazing amount of further features for such a small chip.
I also decided to add a push-button to allow the user to pause the cycling colours on their favourite, and resume the cycle at any time.
I programmed the microcontroller in assembler using Microchip MPLAB and designed the circuit board using Designspark PCB, in order to save space and make a board small enough to fit in the stand I mounted the LED’s on the solder side. I used a mini USB socket as a power input.
If any of you would like to replicate these electronics, or create your own take on them, please find the associated files available for download below.
Here are some video’s of the making of the electron trees, stand and electronics, for those of you who aren’t bored out of their skulls yet.
Sorry I haven’t posted lately but what with work and the wedding getting closer there hasn’t been much time or room in my head to think of anything interesting enough to post. Actually there still isn’t so here’s a picture of Marv in the garden and Fizzy making me think he’s had a stroke.
OH WAIT! It’s Marv’s birthday today!
I’ve been aware of a campaign for a while now. I was made aware of it by my wedding photographer Maria Farrelly. It seems Newport council is proposing to close 2 schools, and merge them on a single site. There a numerous reasons this is a bad idea, as you will see if you head over to http://savegaerschools.wordpress.com but the thing that has seriously and extremely pissed me off, is the dirty, low-down, disgusting political machinations that the parties involved have recently resorted to in order to try and cut the campaigners out of the process.
It’s stuff like this that really winds me up and convinces me that the system is broken. So I’m writing this post in the hopes that someone who can help the campaign in some way might head over to their blog and contact them, or even just share their indignation.
I want to talk about one of my big bugbears. Imagine this: You’re having a conversation with someone who has children and you query something pertaining to said brats. Let’s use an extreme example and say you ask “Why aren’t you telling your child to stop kicking that other child repeatedly in the head?” (not so far-fetched judging by some of the shit I’ve seen parents let their kids do.) The parent responds with some variation of the following sentence:
“You’ll understand when you have children of your own.”
“Fuck off!” is the only real response for this bullshit in my honest opinion, you may as well be saying “I can’t be arsed to explain to you why I’m a shit parent right now.”
Apart from being patronising, condescending and insulting, it’s complete rubbish.
My lack of offspring isn’t indicative of some lower form of intelligence, if anything it is quite the opposite, showing I have a functional understanding of how contraception works.
There is also no mystical understanding that you glean merely through having children of your own, no hidden truth.
Parents love their children, and most will do anything for them, but children can be extremely hard work. I already understand these concepts, it’s not something I’m going to suddenly realise in a moment of epiphany when and if I have my own first born placed in my arms.
If you didn’t understand these concepts before you had kids then I’d probably say you weren’t mature enough to be having them in the first place; and I’ll thank you not to tar me with that brush!
It’s clichéd, non-sentiment, bullshit responses like this that inhibit proper communication and lively debate.
So, until such a time as I decide whether or not to have children of my own, my stock retort for anyone utilising this response or any variation on it will be the following.
“I’m sorry? I couldn’t hear you over the sound of all my disposable income.”
I’m a bit late with this one, but Charlie has done a photo shoot for Cwtch the Bride, the welsh wedding blog she contributes to. I think she looks amazing and should look into doing more of it. Click the image below to go straight to the post at Cwtch the Bride.