Day 59: Biotechnology and the Airplane

I mentioned there were some busy days coming… here’s one. Today I’m heading to Southern California for some serious work on a few fun projects.

Dad is away in Washington D.C. in meetings with BARDA about data analysis, so Mom picks me up at the Burbank airport. She says “You can borrow dad’s car, but first I’ve got a job for you.”

Mom runs a few biotechnology labs in Pasadena. Startup companies use the labs as an incubator in their early stages, and students use them as a place to learn valuable skills and get practical experience working with the startup companies. It’s a lot of work, but a great mix of fun and interesting people.

Mom and Diane in the lab, telling stories again.

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Here’s the job she’s got for me: There’s a computer in the lab which needs repair. That’s how I earn my keep when I visit my folks. (In this case, it looks like the computer is done for, but we’ll get the data off safely, thanks to an idea of Dad’s.)


After lunch with Mom at Lucky Baldwin’s, I head to my brother’s place.

You might remember last time I was here, we worked on the electronics for his airplane. He’s working today and tomorrow, so I’m on my own.

…so I’m going to build something to make the avionics work easier.


Metal parts adapted from… what?

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They go together easily enough, but some mods from my original plan are still necessary.
It’s sort of a heavy-duty frame for working with the plane’s electronic systems. The height and tilt are adjustable, and the whole back is open for easy access to everything. There’s even an attachment point for the GPS antenna.
…and hooray, the cheasel is born. (It needed a name, right? His nickname for me is “Doch” so doch-easel = cheasel.) When he gets home it’s going to look like elves have been busy in his workshop.

Tomorrow: Crazy fun with a 44,000-pound optical instrument.

Random assertion: To keep your lunch safe in the bio-lab fridge, just write “ex/38463-36” on it. No one will dare eat it.

Steganographic data: 1848/1.4

Published in: on July 16, 2008 at 10:04 am  Comments (3)  
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Day 58: Potential Energy

(Author’s note: I’ve got some catching up to do. I hit two days which were so crazy-full that there was no time to write. Here goes.)

Right before the MechaniCrawl, my muse had just gotten back from a cross-country flight, so we’re ready for a day of rest and quiet relaxation. She’s finishing another knitting project. This one’s for her sister, but it looks really good on her as well.


So it was a quiet day at home. Remember the rule? Any time there’s a quiet day without many pictures, I unwrap another Secret Plan.


Secret Plan 118: Pressure Reducing Micro-Generator

Most houses have devices called pressure-reducing valves. They’re important for many reasons, and building codes require them on the interface from the water main. Additional pressure reduction is sometimes used to save water in the garden or shower.

…so the water that comes to your house is higher pressure than you need. Call it 100 psi (pounds per square inch). And let’s say you only need it to be 30 psi in your sink, shower, and garden hose.

What if we could use this pressure difference to generate electricity? First step is to find out how much energy we could get from it.

This pressure difference is effectively the same as two water tanks at different heights. If these two tanks physically existed, you can imagine that by water moving from one tank the other, you might generate some power.

This isn’t the device, just an illustration of where the energy would come from.

In this example, a typical family using 120 gallons of water in a day would get 60 watt-hours for free each day, or about enough to run a laptop computer for two or three hours.

That’s not huge, but free energy is pretty popular these days.

Random Assertion: Micro-generation ideas usually aren’t cost effective at first, but they also don’t cost much.

Steganographic data: 1862/1.4

Published in: on July 16, 2008 at 8:38 am  Comments (1)  
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