Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Wacky Ideas, Part 2

Here are a couple more that I've recently come up with.

Idea #1: A handheld directional EMP weapon

I'm sure you'll agree with me when I say that cell phones going off at inappropriate times are extremely annoying. For example, today in Calculus, this one girl's phone went off not once, but THREE TIMES. It's unfortunate that us victims of cell phone harassment have no way of getting back at the owner (besides beating to death - it's happened before). So what if there was a way to shut down their cell phones remotely? Even better, what if there was some way to burn out the circuitry in their phone? They would certainly think twice before leaving them on in classrooms, movie theaters, etc.

The obvious answer, of course, is an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) weapon. Yes, like the ones in The Matrix, only a lot less powerful. Cell phones have essentially no shielding, and the antenna will easily channel a properly-tuned blast right into the microprocessor at the heart of the phone. The way I figure, you could do it with some AA batteries, assuming a large enough capacitor.

What you'll need:

- A bunch of batteries (I'd recommend rechargeable)
- A large capacitor (Anything over 500 μF should do; I have a 10,000 μF cap at home that should do the trick quite nicely)
- Some sort of circuit for modulating the blast
- A parabolic reflector (ideally, tuned to the pulse frequency)

How to do it:

1. Build the damn thing. An empty Pringles container would work for the casing.
2. Charge the batteries and put them in.
3. Let the capacitor charge.
4. Wait for the offending cell phone to ring.
5. Fire away!

As an added bonus, you can target people who check their e-mail on blackberries every five seconds, and the laptops of those who think that class time is "Solitaire time".

Idea #2: Cheap, easy-to-make E-paper

So I'm sure many people have heard about this amazing new technology that never seems to materialize: electronic paper. We've been promised this ever since they demonstrated a black-and-white 320*240 paper display back in the mid-nineties. But various problems due to [insert excuse here] have prevented any products from coming into existence. Perhaps they just can't agree on who should be selling it: paper manufacturers, or the electronics industry? In any case, I say we should be making our own. Near as I can tell, electronic paper consists of two main components: the paper and the ink. As far as the paper goes, it needs to have a matrix of electrodes through it in order to activate the ink, as well as some sort of connection to a computer. The ink is tricky, because you need something that can change from black to white when electric current is supplied. The most common way of doing this is to have microscopic spheres, half white and half black, that align themselves according to electric charge.

What you'll need:

- paper (it probably doesn't matter what kind you use)
- very thin wire
- a sewing machine
- those weird glass microbead things (made by 3M)
- black spraypaint
- some sort of mass-seperation equipment (perhaps something as simple as chromatography could work; I'm not sure)
- an old LCD screen

How to do it:

1. Take the spool of thread out of the sewing maching and replace it with the wire.
2. Use the sewing maching (on the appropriate setting) to sew a grid of wire into the paper.
3. Spread a bunch of microbeads onto a flat surface.
4. Spraypaint the microbeads. With any luck, you'll have a bunch that are all black, a bunch that aren't covered at all, and a bunch that are approximately half-white/half-black.
5. Since the microbeads with more paint will be heavier, use the mass-seperation equipment to seperate out the "half-and-half" ones.
6. Somehow, embed these extracted microbeads into the paper. (Wet it, spread them on, wait for it to dry? Make sure the spraypaint isn't water-soluble)
7. Pull the circuitry out of the old LCD screen (especially the stuff that actually drives the pixels. Hook it to the edges of the piece of paper (which should have a bunch of really thin wires to attach it to).

And there you have it; your very own, home-made, electronic paper.


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