2021-07-26 4 min read


Notes, 2021-07-26.

Since my last guest edit, I’m finally starting to write my PhD dissertation, and it's incredibly rewarding. I love getting to take time to do a deep dive into a subject. My research has a focus on the Canadian Space Agency, which has always been a great source of national pride. Every time I mention my topic, I’m quickly reminded by fellow Canadians that the Canadarm is on the $5 bill. I’m looking at how manufacturing infrastructure led to the modern embodiment of the CSA, from wartime knitting efforts and nylon riots, to the Avro Arrow and DEW Line. I’m fascinated by connecting the dots, and looking forward to what I’ll uncover.

-lee wilkins

The most clicked link from last week's issue (~14% of opens) was a blog post on Thomassons, architectural objects which are maintained but serve no apparent purpose. And in case you missed it, check out Spencer's piece on symbiosis, the Champlain Towers North, and the chemical changes that cause structural failure in modern reinforced concrete.

If you're vaxxed and in NYC this Friday afternoon, join theprepared.org as a Member and come hang out at our workshop's open house! It'll be rad :)

Planning & Strategy.

  • The Apollo missions had astronauts do all kinds of experiments on the lunar surface, from UV spectrometry to atmospheric composition. This catalog of experimental operations details every single experiment’s procedure, results, and even where the equipment was stored on the lunar lander.
  • Powerline is a feature about the infrastructure of HydroQuebec, which tells the complex story of how this provincially owned utility became a symbol of French Canadian culture - and the damage it did to the Indigenous people living there. HydroQuebec is responsible for some truly remarkable feats, including Manic-5, the largest multi-buttress dam in the world. But these massive dams flooded and destroyed the land of the Pessamit Innu who lived there for thousands of years.
  • While cleaning out some old boxes, I stumbled on a cassette tape labeled “Learn to code the easy way” which I wrongly assumed was about programming - it was about morse code. I didn’t have a way to listen to the tape, but it got me thinking about contemporary ways to learn morse code, teach a computer morse code, or use it as a phishing attack.

Making & Manufacturing.

  • Axis Mvndi is an art installation that draws at a cosmic scale using radio waves. It's made out of a motorized 2 m parabolic dish antenna which is rotating continuously, broadcasting waves to achieve a cosmological form.
  • In last week’s issue, Hillary shared her interest in DIY radio tech, which reminded me of Ken Sherrif’s teardown of an oscillating quartz crystal. I’ve used these before in radio circuits, and the interior is fascinating to me as a chip decapping enthusiast. The hybrid circuit inside a metal package contains a tiny crystal disk, with a very small CMOS integrated circuit die mounted on the ceramic substrate, connected to the circuitry by tiny golden bond wires. I love these circuits for radio art, which has led me to explore different methods of RF transmission such as superheterodyne and software defined radio (SDR).
  • I love seeing Z80 calculator hacks, but this Casio getting internet takes the cake thanks to this TCP/IP stack and IRC client for Casio calculators.

Maintenance, Repair & Operations.

  • I’m not sure how the next few years will unfold with COVID-19, but this 1 hour DIY covid test protocol is an interesting way for the DIY science community to take testing into their own hands.
  • The Seiko Spring Drive watch circuit is a pretty amazing piece of technology. While a traditional electronic watch is powered by a battery with a quartz oscillator controlling a step-motor linked to the hands, the Spring Drive receives all the energy it ever needs for functioning from a wound spring. The rotor and its coil act as a power generator in the same way as a bicycle dynamo generating electricity from a rotating wheel.
  • Media Archeology Lab has a beautiful catalog of vintage hardware, software, and print media.

Distribution & Logistics.

Inspection, Testing & Analysis.

  • Earth Observation Data Management System is a platform open to the general public to download data in the form of thousands of high resolution satellite images. The underlying data is provided by RADARSAT-2, a CSA observation satellite.
  • Before satellite imagery was widely available, artists like EL Trouvelot were limited to what they saw through telescopes. This article shows Trouvelot’s drawings in comparison to NASA images of the same celestial phenomenon. This also reminds me of William Beebe’s bathysphere expedition, where, from the depths of the ocean, he described sea creatures over the phone to Else Bostelmann, who painted them.
  • One of my favorite random things on the EE internet is Bunnie Huang's monthly feature called Name That Ware, which asks people to guess what the pictured hardware belongs to. Recent favorites include the Intellivision game console by Mattel which has some pretty cool traces on the PCB.


Moon over ISS from the astronomy picture of the day archive.

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