Tag Archives: science

Bullet time lightning

A while back, I took some photos of my spark gap Tesla coil running.

Although I did get some nice shots, I couldn’t help but feel that they don’t quite capture the full experience of a real live lightning machine. While I can’t do much to recreate the visceral smell of ozone and nitrogen compounds formed by the ionizing sparks, or the reverberating whine of the beautiful but deadly spark gap, I did have an idea for bringing another aspect of the lightning show to the interwebs.

3-D lightning! (Be sure to watch it in HD if you have the bandwidth.)

I made a ten-camera array of Canon A470s, and configured them to work as a single 70-megapixel 10-angle camera.


Why that particular camera? Partly because I found someone dumping a bunch of them on eBay for cheap, but also because they run CHDK, the infamous scriptable firmware for Canon cameras. This let me write some code to streamline the process of taking ten photos all at once, and then get them off of the cameras in a reasonable manner. By wiring all of them to the same 10-port USB hub, and using CHDK’s syncable USB remote feature, I was able to wire up a single button to make all of the cameras fire at once. Collect all the photos, find all of the good ones that are actually in focus, get them aligned and color balanced and scaled, and away you go. Bullet time lightning.

bullet time lightning

This was one of the more challenging projects I’ve taken on in a while. I had to build a physical mount to hold all of the cameras, wire them together to a repurposed PC power supply, recompile CHDK to eliminate as many unnecessary camera keystrokes as possible, write some scripts to facilitate taking and retrieving the photos, then shoot the actual photos without accidentally frying the whole rig. And, of course, build and operate the Tesla coil itself, edit together the stills, and compile the whole thing into a possibly entertaining vid.

I want to take a lot more footage with this camera, but I also wanted to release the results as soon as I could. So here you are.

Aside from Tesla shots, what would you shoot if you had a bullet-time style camera?


First-ever live birth inside an MRI

Philips designed an open MRI that allows enough room for the mother to actually give birth while inside the machine.

Via Medgadget:

This operation was the culmination of two years of research and development work by the “open high-field MRI” task force specialising in radiology. “We had to develop a new type of foetal surveillance monitor whose measuring technology is not adversely affected by the extremely strong magnetic field of the MRI scanner,” says project manager Felix Güttler in explaining one of the challenges the team faced.

Bussard on polywell fusion

Here is the classic Google Tech Talk from Robert Bussard (yes, the ramjet guy). In it he talks about a design for a novel fusion reactor he developed for the DoD over the course of eleven years. He was hoping to find further funding for the project in the Silicon Valley tech set. Sadly, he died less than a year after this talk, but interest in the design continues.

Folks like Famulus are trying to recreate Bussard’s work in an attempt to create a DIY-able fusion reactor source. Is it possible that the next energy revolution will come from a garage inventor?