When it rains, it pours. To top off all the other shit that happened
since 9/11 the space shuttle disintegrated during the
landing descent yesterday. This tragedy underscores the tremendous
risk Astronauts take while they are doing their job. It reminds us about
what exploration actually is – pushing the engineering envelope beyond our
current industrial understanding. And the dangers involved. My heart
goes out to the people who loved them. My salute and deepest respect to
those with the tremendous courage it takes to ride the fire into the future.
You are all truly brave souls to which we owe our future.
the vacuum chamber just up and appeared in my lab last Friday (2002.01.30).
Again, another surreal event to happen to me lately. I was expecting
delivery around February 15 – about two weeks from now. So when I got the
call at 7:00 am asking if I’d be home to receive the crate, I was a bit
surprised. I haven’t really set it up yet, but here’s a
picture of the chamber – still encased
in plastic wrap. I realized about a two weeks ago that they wouldn’t be
shipping blank ports with the chamber – those cost extra, after all.
So the creature is going to sit in plastic, in the shipping crate until I can
scare up blanks for most of the ports. I need a 4.5" view port as well for
the top port – hopefully from EBay, keeping my fingers crossed. Since
2.75" view ports aren’t completely insanely expensive, I’ll get at least one of
them to blank off an unused port. Since I am limited by my power supplies
to 30 kilovolts any way, I’m getting a much cheaper electrical feed through
which comes on a 2.75" flange. I got a 6" to 2.75" reducer pretty cheap on
EBay, so that’ll work out fine – if a bit inelegant looking.
been doing a lot of reading lately – most of what I can do, given that my
mundane workload has increased. We’re now full bore into the second
release, and I do work at a start up – post bubble.
But I do have enough time to do some reading. I got some very good
books from EBay, as well as Amazon and Alibrus. Probably the best
Radiation Detection and Measurement, by Glenn Knoll. Since I acquired
it on EBay, it is the 1979 first edition. But it’s still an amazing book.
Have been devouring this book, and it’s cleared up a lot of questions I’ve had
about neutron and radiation measurement in general. Amazingly cool
I also got two good books on ion sources –
Ion Sources, by Huashun Zhang and
Handbook of Ion Sources, edited by Bernhard Wolf. Luckily, not full
price for either – both excellent condition used books. Zhang’s book is an
excellent overview and is an excellent reference book to the theory and design
of ion sources. The handbook is a research engineer’s dream though.
Much more practical design and construction techniques. Engineering data
on materials and techniques, as well as an excellent chapter on ion beam
diagnostics. Zhang has a good chapter as well, but in the handbook they
have several fairly detailed designs for various measurement and beam
characterization instruments. Severely cool. Picked up some other
nuclear and particle accelerator books really cheaply off EBay, as well as a
couple of electron and ion optics. Also very cool.
Every once and a while, I am completely amazed at this world wide web we have
constructed. The stuff available – information, goods, trades and
specialty markets – is truly astounding. Having watched the WWW baby
almost from the day it was born, it’s easy to get jaded with the Dot Com bubble
bursting and all. EBay is truly a scavenger’s dream. Back in the
early 80’s, I was reading this book whose title I now forget. But the book
was about the "finders" business. It was about the coming market
opportunities in being a professional finder.
A professional finder is a professional scavenger. Speaking from
experience, I have a lot of stuff that I’d be more than happy to sell to someone
cheaply. Imagine if I was an older generation Fab or some other silicon
valley materials science business. You replace stuff on a regular basis,
and although it’s not cutting edge nor new machinery, it’s still in good shape.
Enter the finder. This person connects those who have stuff to sell to
those who are looking to buy. Information as well as physical machinery,
resources and equipment. For a fee, of course. A "finders fee".
Anyways, the dream of Business 2 Business was always about eliminating the
finder from this equation. A lot of Dot Coms – well, those with a business
plan at least – were entirely concerned with trying to connect businesses
together in commerce. That’s why it was called E-Commerce. My
feeling about all this – having helped build some systems that failed
spectacularly – was that you couldn’t eliminate the humans from the equation.
Rather than eliminating the job of Finder, e-commerce made the professional
finder a necessity. There’s so much stuff out there that no one can keep
casual track of it – it’s a full time job.
Anyways, EBay has become the de facto marketplace for the finders of the
world. They really have it completely sewn up and monopolized. Not
that I’m complaining, as they don’t seem to be abusing this monopoly, and are
doing quite well as the stewards of this amazing creation.
Suffice it to say that I believe we’re living in incredible times. The
wealth of innovation due to the ability of the web as a market place of ideas
and resources is truly astounding. If we learn how to use this more
effectively – and realistically, I might add <g> – we’re really going to kick
ass as a species. Heady times, it would seem, are still ahead of us.
The postings on the fusor.net on Gun
Design and Construction
still going strong. Seems there must be something prescient about being
named Richard or Phil. I stand in awe of these people. <heh> Learning
an awful lot from these guys’ words and experiments.
I’ve finally to get the hang of SIMION, which is quite nice. As I said,
it’s a bit quirky. But their manual is excellent – puts the manuals for
the software systems I’ve built to shame. They have a good technical
writer who understands the system. So I’ve been playing around with
various things and I’m now playing with their geometry file format for defining
electrodes and such. It’s a very expressive and quite clever language.
Object oriented, with an odd syntax, but nothing egregious. Quite elegant
in fact. Somebody could write a translator from some 3D CAD format to this
language with relative ease – certainly open GL looks like it should be easy to
translate as long as the restrictions are satisfied.
But a task for someone else. At the moment, I’d just love to get an
approximation of my insanity modeled. It’ll take a bit, but it’ll be worth
it. I’m going to have to take advantage of this tool to design the
electron and ion guns so I don’t waste time on idiotic designs. Phil’s
work (posted on the fusor forum) on ion guns has been wonderfully illuminating.
He has managed to get what seems like measurable beams from relatively easy to
build ion guns. Amazing. And very encouraging.
So I still have an incredible amount of work to do. I’ve still got to
acquire some conflat hardware so I can play around with some ion guns myself.
I learned about a wonderful substance called Torr Seal. It’s an epoxy that
is rated for use to 10-9 torr. Amazing.
Duniway Stockroom sells a "Torr Seal Equivalent" which is about an order of
magnitude cheaper than the real Torr Seal. $17.99. Very cool.
As my TIG welding ability is not vacuum quality, this is like nectar of the gods
to an engineer like me. Richard Hull suggested doing some machining so
that the epoxy exposed is a minimum. It may be good to UHV pressures, but
it still doesn’t respond to heat very well. Nor is it likely to survive
very long under high energy particle bombardment. Ions are nasty things at
high energy, and not even steel holds up very long under such torture.
Remember that they use high energy electron beams to do precision welding. They
also use high energy ion beams to do high precision milling and shaping of metal.
Not something to fool around with – forget about the high voltage dangers.
So things are going pretty good all things considered. I rearranged the
corner of the workshop, putting one of the work tables I had in the garage
(unused) there to support the effort. I also got a really cheap 19"
equipment rack from EBay to mount the power supplies and other instruments of
destruction. I need to obtain the bracing, but hopefully I can find that soon.
Oh, and I found an absolutely stunning deal on the web – no, not on EBay – for
40 KV electrical wire. It was at $0.288 a foot, for 500 feet.
I couldn’t believe it. The advertised price was much higher than that, but
he wanted to sell the whole spool rather than sell it piece meal. So I got
a deal. When this materializes, I’ll see if anyone needs some on the fusor
forum. The price is simply amazing.
Well, that’s about it. Hopefully I’ll be able to cut down on the amount
of mundane work I’m doing now – about 16 hours a day, six days a week. I
just figured out a really nasty problem that’s been driving me batty for a week,
so that is always good news. It’s one of those basic problems that is at
the frickin’ foundation level of the architecture, so it’s pretty essential to
the system – not a good thing to have lying about unsolved. Anyways, we’ll