Archive for June, 2009

High Speed Coin Shrinking

Posted by rob on 12 June 2009

A quarter caught in the act of shrinking

We recently had a chance to work with the fine folks at Intellectual Ventures to quantify some of what goes on with our coin shrinker. Using a bunch of neat gear (including an extremely high speed camera), we were able to learn all sorts of things about our amazing chamber of shrink. Here is some of what we learned:

  • The coin shrinks in just 30 to 40 microseconds. Even when filming at 100,000 frames per second, that's just 3 or 4 frames of video!
  • By the time the coil begins to explode, the coin has already been shrunk for several microseconds!
  • The collapsing coin gets extremely hot: the thinnest part of the center of a quarter glows bright white-red for a few microseconds just after shrinking.
  • At one meter away from the spark gap, the shrinker generates a big bang: about 135 dB, or roughly as loud as a jet engine taking off from 100 meters away.
  • The magnetic field created by the coil is extremely strong: at 10 cm from the coil (just on top of the lid of the blast chamber) we measured a peak field strength of 0.22 tesla, or about as strong as a small neodymium magnet.
  • During the explosion, some of the bits of shrapnel fly past the camera's view at about twice the speed of sound.
  • The edge of the coin moves about 1/4" in 36 microseconds, or roughly 400 miles per hour!

There's a lot more info over on Intellectual Ventures' blog. More photos of the camera rig and actual shrinkage are available here.

A just-shrunk quarter, captured at 100,000 frames per second

To the edge of space (and back!)

Posted by JonM on 3 June 2009

Two weeks ago we sent our buddy AHAB3 up into the air. About two hours into the flight and 56062 feet up, we stopped getting position updates. We could hear it transmitting, but it just kept repeating the same position.

Our recovery teams drove around and tried to use the secondary beacon to figure out where it was. We got some good headings using the direction-finding equipment, but then lost all signal from the payload.

We headed back to Seattle, sure we had lost a third payload.

Last Tuesday, 3ric got a call on his cell phone. A forest ranger in Idaho had stumbled across our bumblebee! He hiked it out, and a few days later shipped it off to us.

Monday morning we got a nice present at the lab, gingerly removed the SD card, and were greeted with:

The edge of space

Tonight the we're going to go over the payload with a fine-toothed comb, and catalogue what's broken and what's still working. A number of systems malfunctioned during the flight, so it's vital to know why if we want to do this again.

More photos can be found here

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