Category Archives: Sensors

Measuring light, heat, voltage, mass, moisture, and all the other bits of data science needs.

Sky Temperature Sensor

The first sensor to go on my instrument platform may be an infrared sky temperature sensor. The sky temperature can be used to determine if the sky is clear or cloudy and when the sky is clear the temperature is a measure of the total column water vapor above the sensor. The sensor electronics consists of two modules from SparkFun Electronics,  an evaluation … Continue reading…

Posted in Amateur Science, Climate, DIY, Electronics, Experimentation, Imbedded Software, Instrumentation, Measurement, Programming, Sensors, Software, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Instrument Platform

The sensors for my atmospheric observatory need to be mounted somewhere they can have unobstructed access to the sky and weather. The solution is a platform located away from buildings and trees. The platform is built using the same materials and construction that one would use to build a deck for a house. For the legs I buried four 12 foot treated posts … Continue reading…

Posted in Amateur Science, DIY, Meteorology, Nature Study, Observation, Sensors | 1 Comment

Magnetic Fields and How to Measure Them

Figure 2. Circuit diagram for a simple magnetic field readout.

There aren’t a lot of fields in physics to study beyond gravity, electromagnetism and the strong and weak nuclear forces. Since the last two are essentially impossible for an amateur to study, that only leaves gravitational and electromagnetic fields. Continue reading…

Posted in Amateur Science, Electricity, Electronics, Experimentation, Instrumentation, Magnetism, Measurement, Physics, Sensors | Leave a comment

Analog Microcontroller Review

I have been trying to decide what to use to digitize the signals from my sensors that have analog outputs. The original thinking was to attach a 16 bit A/D converter to an ARM processor module. The other day I decided to revisit the Analog Devices Analog microcontroller family of parts. These parts are intended to process analog signals with their built in … Continue reading…

Posted in Amateur Science, Experimentation, Instrumentation, Programming, Projects, Reviews, Sensors, Software | Leave a comment

The Steam Battery: A Low-Cost Science Experiment Performed with Ordinary Materials

Explain how an apparently uniform sample of ESD foam can produce a DC voltage in response to sudden exposure to high-humidity air. Continue reading…

Posted in Climate, Electronics, Experimentation, Measurement, Meteorology, Projects, Sensors | Leave a comment

Citizen Science Musings: Maker Faire 2013

Gridbeam geodesic dome at Maker Faire 2013. Photo by Sheldon Greaves.

Maker Faire is generally fun, exuberant, irreverent, edgy, and nerdy as hell. This year was no exception. Continue reading…

Posted in Crafts, DIY, Engineering, Events, Invention, Machine Shop, Makers and Making, Science Education, Sensors, Tools | 1 Comment

Infrasonic Microphone Part I

Another sensor planed for my atmospheric observatory is an infrasonic microphone. I have a design sketched out and  fabricated the mechanical bits needed. So what is an infrasonic microphone good for? The recent Chelyabinsk meteor was detected by the infrasonic microphone array set up around the world to detect cheaters on the nuclear test ban treaty. Some work has been done on using … Continue reading…

Posted in Amateur Science, DIY, Instrumentation, Machine Shop, Sensors | 9 Comments

Finding a Major Gamma-Ray Burst

William Lucas, presenting his findings at the Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop. William’s cousin Paul Sample, who worked with him on the project, is on the left.

If you aren’t already aware of this, here is the story of William Lucas, a remarkable young citizen scientist who started working on one problem, only to be pulled aside into another that led to a significant discovery. Continue reading…

Posted in Amateur Science, Astronomy, Computer Science, Instrumentation, Measurement, Observation, Sensors, Space | 1 Comment

Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectroscopy- X-Ray Fluorescence in the Home Lab or: Fun with Quantum Physics

FIG. 1: XRF via beta particles, also known as PIXE (Particle Induced Radiation Emission).

The first CSL article in this series has introduced you to X-Ray Fluorescence, the method of exciting an element’s atoms and measuring the Characteristic X-Rays given off when the atom de-excites back to a stable state. Continue reading…

Posted in Amateur Science, Energy, Experimentation, Instrumentation, Invention, Measurement, Nuclear, Physics, Projects, Sensors, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Identifying Elements Via XRF X-Ray Fluorescence

The natural characteristic X-Rays unique to each element on the Periodic Table of the Elements! Continue reading…

Posted in Amateur Science, Electronics, Experimentation, Instrumentation, Invention, Measurement, Physics, Projects, Research Tools, Sensors | 8 Comments