The Big Think

June 6, 2015

Elon Musk: The World’s Raddest Man

Filed under: Maker,Technology — jasony @ 11:03 pm

Elon Musk: The World’s Raddest Man | Wait But Why:

“For me, this project was one of the biggest no-brainers in history. Not just because Elon Musk is Elon Musk, but because here are two separate items that have been sitting for a while in my ‘Future Post Topics’ document, verbatim:

– ‘electric vs hybrid vs gas cars, deal with tesla, sustainable energy’

– ‘spacex, musk, mars?? how learn to do rockets??’

I already wanted to write about these topics, for the same reason I wrote about Artificial Intelligence—I knew they would be hugely important in the future but that I also didn’t understand them well enough. And Musk is leading a revolution in both of these worlds.

It would be like if you had plans to write about the process of throwing lightning bolts and then one day out of the blue Zeus called and asked if you wanted to question him about a lot of stuff.

So it was on. The plan was that I’d come out to California, see the Tesla and SpaceX factories, meet with some of the engineers at each company, and have an extended sit down with Musk. Exciting.

The first order of business was to have a full panic.”

(Via .)

June 5, 2015

There are Many Rio’s, but This One is Mine.

Filed under: The R2 Project — jasony @ 9:33 pm

Tonight I received my MyRio box from National Instruments. I had a fantastic lunch with the N.I. guy where we completely geeked out over what the MyRio box can do in the R2. Initially it was just going to be for sensor data acquisition but after talking to the rep it’s looking like the little box is going to be the main central brain.

This solves many problems: centralization, programming simplicity, power, and connection minimization. Plus, LabView looks like it’ll be just the thing for sensor/servo/motor control. It also contains some rather intriguing features regarding vision analysis, data streaming over the web, wifi/bluetooth integration, and a few other goodies.

Here’s the cool part: National Instruments got wind of my R2 project and was so excited about it that they wanted to supply the MyRio free of charge (street prics is almost $1,000)! They also want me to come to N.I. periodically and participate in their group lunches to update them on the progress. This little R2 is going places!


June 4, 2015

My MyRio

Filed under: The R2 Project — jasony @ 10:21 am

Just got an email from my contact at National Instruments. The higher-ups are impressed enough with my R2 project that they want to support it with a MyRio. Completely! Yes, they’re supplying one for free for the project!

So I guess R2 is now “sponsored” by National Instruments? That. Is. So. Cool. The only thing that my contact asked is that I write some posts about how I’m integrating it into the project. But yes, as of now (well, tomorrow when I pick it up), R2 will have a brain courtesy National Instruments. I’ll of course post info here but I’ll also be posting to Instructables and other such sites. Yeah, it’s a quid pro quo, and I’ve never really done sponsored stuff (does this mean I have to write “full disclosure” on everything?). But in all honesty I really do think the MyRio is a great solution for what I want to do. Yes, there are other boxes out there that’ll do the same thing, but at my level of Maker, learning to do the programming with a BeagleBone or similar box was going to be really limiting since I don’t want to become a programmer. The LabView/MyRio combo is perfect. Just enough graphics to make it easy and plenty of power (FPGA! FPGA!) to do some really cool stuff.

I’m still sticking to my modified 4 year plan but now I really want to start working on the electronics stuff. Can’t wait! 🙂

June 3, 2015

The Constant Kilo

Filed under: Science — jasony @ 7:20 pm

I love standards. It’s weird, I know. But there’s something about knowing exactly what something is, to the highest degree of perfection attainable in the universe, that’s just kind of cool to me.

The second is the duration of 9192631770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the caesium-133 atom.

The metre is the length of the path travelled by light in vacuum during a time interval of 1/299792458 of a second.

The ampere is that constant current which, if maintained in two straight parallel conductors of infinite length, of negligible circular cross-section, and placed 1 m apart in vacuum, would produce between these conductors a force equal to 2×10−7 newton per metre of length.

The kelvin, unit of thermodynamic temperature, is the fraction 1/273.16 of the thermodynamic temperature of the triple point of water.

The candela is the luminous intensity, in a given direction, of a source that emits monochromatic radiation of frequency 540×1012 Hz and that has a radiant intensity in that direction of 1/683 watt per steradian.

The mole is the amount of substance of a system that contains as many elementary entities as there are atoms in 0.012 kilogram of carbon-12. When the mole is used, the elementary entities must be specified and may be atoms, molecules, ions, electrons, other particles, or specified groups of such particles.


There’s a problem with the Kilogram. What is the problem? This:

What I Learned About Fear by Intentionally Stalling a Plane

Filed under: Hobbies — jasony @ 12:12 pm

What I Learned About Fear by Intentionally Stalling a Plane:

“Between my ninth and tenth flying lessons, the fever broke. I don’t know how or why. Part of it was simply accumulating time in the air. After ten or so hours, I no longer had any reason to think the plane crashed by magic. And part of it was a better technical grasp of the many aspects of flying. I gained confidence in my power to make the airplane predictable. That is the pilot’s preeminent goal.

But another part of it was a growing fatigue, even a disgust: I was sick of being scared. I was tired of not taking the initiative.

I wanted to fly. I wanted to have fun.

Before my first lesson, I asked Tom if I was going to die. Tom is a circumspect man, careful to choose his words, but never at the expense of a forthright answer.

‘Eventually, yes,’ he said. ‘Nobody gets out alive.’

Later, he added, ‘Now, are you going to live? That’s another story. That’s a subjective question. Not dying is not the same as living.'”

(Via .)

June 2, 2015


Filed under: Friends — jasony @ 11:00 pm

Phenomenal publicity picture of Erin’s best friend Anne. Wow! Photographer did a great job and Anne had fun getting the professional makeup/makeover. Yes, that really is her natural eye color.

She’ll use this photo as part of her piano performance publicity stuff.

Erin and I decided that the colors and saturation in the picture almost look like a Vermeer painting. Great picture Anne! 🙂


R2 Skirt and Electronics News

Filed under: The R2 Project — jasony @ 10:39 pm

Huge conversation at TechShop tonight. I had one of the guys from National Instruments in my class (both guys in this photo, by the way) and we got to talking (for about 90 minutes after class!) about the R2 project. I mentioned that eventually I wanted to get some basic sensors (temp, humidity, CO2, Methane, etc) integrated into him and wondered if the new MyRio box from NI would do the trick.

What followed was an hour and a half whirlwind conversation that I won’t even try to recount except to say yes, yes it will. Nicely. This is an amazing little dual core Linux box that comes with Lab View and will allow me to not only plug in some truly wonderful and hard core National Instruments/NASA level sensors, but will also do some amazingly creative and complex control of motors, servos, NEST thermostats, GPS, etc. It interfaces via WiFi and can run completely independent of a host compuer. It’ll do Kinect style motion following, record audio and video onboard (or stream to a server via WIFI), and (here’s the part that’ll make hardcore Geeks swoon) instantiate your logic as an FPGA with a single click. Great Babbage’s Ghost.

The box is normally $1,000, which is pricey, but the engineer was so excited he’s going to try and get me the MyRio and LabView (the programming environment) for the educator’s discount of $250. Seeing as the control boards for R2 alone were going to be around that cost, and were much less flexible, I count this as a complete and total win. My brain is buzzing over what I can do with this little beastie. Stay tuned.

In other news, I got the bread pans powder coated. They’re not super perfect but I think I’ll go with them for now. Barring much better equipment (which is why they were a little messed up), stripping and re-coating them wouldn’t be a guarantee of better results. So I’ve turned my energy to R2’s skirt. After a week or so of thinking and design work in Inventor I cut the parts as a test on the laser in plywood. Then I cut them tonight on the water jet. A couple of minor issues have made it necessary for me to do another piece on the WJ tomorrow (very small and minor). Then I’ll be able to weld the aluminum skirt together and start in on the skirt details. When that’s done I’ll powder coat the skirt (or, actually, ask one of the TechShop members who has a really nice powder coating system to do it for me). Then I’ll start the research into prepping the frame for anodizing. After that I’ll start designing the laser files to etch the artwork/circuitry/Death Star plans into the anodized frame. I’m still shooting for Sept 1st for my Year 1 completion. I may finish a bit early at this rate.

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