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December 16, 2014 AT 6:00 am

Time travel Tuesday #timetravel a look back at the Adafruit, maker, science, technology and engineering world

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An unhurried sense of time is in itself a form of wealth. ~Bonnie Friedman


1776 – Johann Wilhelm Ritter, German chemist, physicist, and philosopher is born.

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Johann Wilhelm Ritter’s first involvement with science began when he was 14 years old. He became an apprentice to an apothecary in Liegnitz (Legnica), and acquired a deep interest in chemistry. He began medicine studies at the University of Jena in 1796. A self-taught scientist, he made many experimental researches on chemistry, electricity and other fields…

…Ritter’s first scientific researches concerned some galvanic phenomena. He interpreted the physiological effects observed by Luigi Galvani and other researchers as due to the electricity generated by chemical reactions. His interpretation is closer to the one accepted nowadays than those proposed by Galvani (“animal electricity”) and Alessandro Volta (electricity generated by metallic contact), but it was not accepted at the time.

In 1800, shortly after the invention of the voltaic pile, William Nicholson and Anthony Carlisle discovered that water could be decomposed by electricity. Shortly afterward, Ritter also discovered the same effect, independently. Besides that, he collected and measured the amounts of hydrogen and oxygen produced in the reaction. He also discovered the process of electroplating. In 1802 he built the first electrochemical cell, with 50 copper discs separated by cardboard disks moistened by a salt solution.

Ritter made several self-experiments applying the poles of a voltaic pile to his own hands, eyes, ears, nose and tongue. He also described the difference between the physiological effects of the two poles of the pile, although some of the effects he reported were not confirmed afterwards.

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1928 – Philip K. Dick, American author is born.

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Philip Kindred Dick was an American novelist, short story writer, essayist and philosopher whose published work is almost entirely accepted as being in the science fiction genre. Dick explored sociological, political and metaphysical themes in novels dominated by monopolistic corporations, authoritarian governments, and altered states. In his later works Dick’s thematic focus strongly reflected his personal interest in metaphysics and theology. He often drew upon his own life experiences in addressing the nature of drug abuse, paranoia, schizophrenia, and transcendental experiences in novels such as A Scanner Darkly and VALIS. He also wrote extensively on philosophy, theology, the nature of reality and science later in his life that was published posthumously as The Exegesis.

The novel The Man in the High Castle bridged the genres of alternate history and science fiction, earning Dick a Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1963. Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, a novel about a celebrity who awakens in a parallel universe where he is unknown, won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best novel in 1975. “I want to write about people I love, and put them into a fictional world spun out of my own mind, not the world we actually have, because the world we actually have does not meet my standards,” Dick wrote of these stories. “In my writing I even question the universe; I wonder out loud if it is real, and I wonder out loud if all of us are real.”

In addition to 44 published novels, Dick wrote approximately 121 short stories, most of which appeared in science fiction magazines during his lifetime. Although Dick spent most of his career as a writer in near-poverty, eleven popular films based on his works have been produced, including Blade Runner, Total Recall, A Scanner Darkly, Minority Report, Paycheck, Next, Screamers, The Adjustment Bureau and Impostor. In 2005, Time magazine named Ubik one of the hundred greatest English-language novels published since 1923. In 2007, Dick became the first science fiction writer to be included in The Library of America series.

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1947 – William Shockley, John Bardeen and Walter Brattain build the first practical point-contact transistor.

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A point-contact transistor was the first type of solid-state electronic transistor ever constructed. It was made by researchers John Bardeen and Walter Houser Brattain at Bell Laboratories in December 1947. They worked in a group led by physicist William Bradford Shockley. The group had been working together on experiments and theories of electric field effects in solid state materials, with the aim of replacing vacuum tubes with a smaller, less power-consuming device.

The critical experiment, carried out on December 16, 1947, consisted of a block of germanium, a semiconductor, with two very closely spaced gold contacts held against it by a spring. Brattain attached a small strip of gold foil over the point of a plastic triangle — a configuration which is essentially a point-contact diode. He then carefully sliced through the gold at the tip of the triangle. This produced two electrically isolated gold contacts very close to each other.

The piece of germanium used had a surface layer with an excess of electrons. When an electric signal traveled in through the gold foil, it injected holes (points which lack electrons). This created a thin layer which had a scarcity of electrons.

A small positive current applied to one of the two contacts had an influence on the current which flowed between the other contact and the base upon which the block of germanium was mounted. In fact, a small change in the first contact current caused a greater change in the second contact current, thus it was an amplifier. The first contact is the “emitter” and the second contact is the “collector”. The low-current input terminal into the point-contact transistor is the emitter, while the output high current terminals are the base and collector. This differs from the later type of bipolar junction transistor invented in 1951 that operates as transistors still do, with the low current input terminal as the base and the two high current output terminals are the emitter and collector.

Unlike later semiconductor devices, it was possible for an amateur to make a point-contact transistor, starting with a germanium point-contact diode as a source of material (even a burnt-out diode could be used; and the transistor could be re-formed if damaged, several times if necessary).

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1997 – A Japanese airing of the “Dennō Senshi Porygon” episode of Pokémon induces seizures in 685 viewers.

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“Dennō Senshi Porygon” (でんのうせんしポリゴン Dennō Senshi Porigon?, translated as “Cyber Soldier Porygon”, although more commonly “Electric Soldier Porygon”) is the thirty-eighth episode of the Pokémon anime’s first season. Its only broadcast was in Japan on December 16, 1997. In the episode, Ash and his friends find at the local Pokémon Center that there is something wrong with the Poké Ball transmitting device. To find out what is wrong, they must go inside the machine.

The episode is infamous for certain repetitive visual effects which induced photosensitive epileptic seizures in a substantial number of Japanese viewers, an incident referred to as the “Pokémon Shock” (ポケモンショック Pokemon Shokku?) by the Japanese press. 685 viewers were taken to hospitals; two people remained hospitalized for more than two weeks. Due to this, the episode has not been rebroadcast worldwide. After the incident, the Pokémon anime went into a four-month hiatus, and it returned on TV Tokyo in April 16, 1998, thus making the episode perhaps the most controverted episode of the entire Pokémon series. Since then, the episode has been parodied and referenced in cultural media, including The Simpsons and South Park.

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2011 – iHacked the iNecklace

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OK, so maybe it was more of a mod than a hack, but the end results were the same. My iNecklace was now pulsating a beautiful purple instead of the stock white. I’m not so sure purple would have been my first choice, but it’s my wife’s favorite color and she loves it.

I started out with every intention of desoldering the micro-sized LED in the necklace and replacing it with one from my unwieldy pile of SMD LEDs that always seem to get mixed together against my best intentions. My iron was hot, tweezers in hand, and all I had to do was open the back and get to desoldering that stock LED. Then it hit me, literally hit me. Well, it was more of a poke, but it grabbed my attention nonetheless.

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