Fun with high voltage

It's just not humanly possible to pass up reading the rest of a site that starts out: "Science Toys You Can Make With Your Kids: Fun With High Voltage."

If that interesting activity palls, fear not, for there's plenty of other stuff for little Nesbit and Jemima: making a railgun, a magnetic ring launcher, film can cannon, the Bernoulli levitation ball, a (simple!) rocket engine...

It's actually just a DIY site for making science toys out of objects you've got lying around the house. Finding out just how to make a Bernoulli levitation ball isn't half as exciting as the description.

But if it's a boring Sunday morning, and you happen to wake up with the urge to listen to electric fish (biology) or build your own laser communicator, at least you know where to find the recipe: there you go. Play nice.

[Source: Science Toys]

Meanwhile, for the "adults" in the room, an interesting thread on modding laser tag gear, because why should the rugrats have all the fun? Why, indeed...

A user called digitalsushi tossed this query out at slashdot:

We're not engineers, but also figured it can't be that hard to do something with some kind of infrared laser to decrease the beam width. What other sorts of inexpensive things could be added to our gear to make it more interesting?

And got some interesting (and amusing) replies, and options to ponder, running the gamut from informative to unsettling. Highlights:

- What I'd love to see is an Ender's Game type of thing in which the clothes freeze up in the areas they're hit in, but that would probably be too difficult.

- Dear Tron Guy:
Please mod your Tron suit for Laser tag.

- Re: Dear Tron Guy:
Please don't.
The Entire World

- How would banging the emitters around result in a dramatic power increase? That's just silly.

- Exploding blood packs...lots of them.

- I know! Apply modules that translate sounds into amplified waves of destruction! Now, to find a word or phrase which has power....

- ...Laser Tag! Impress your friends! Scare your neighbors! Attract the attention of the Department of Homeland Security! For best results, play on fresh snow.

- My personal favorite hack used a magnifying glass and a poster tube to make a long-range sniper-style rifle.

- I would recommend getting an AEG (Automatic Electric Gun) from Asia (airsoftshop.com, wgcshop.com) but if you prefer to buy from the US, I would recommend combatdepot.com. Airsoft can be dangerous so if you play make sure you are wearing proper eye protection (at least ANSI 87.1). Also be sure to inform any neighbors you have as well as the police that you are having an airsoft game. You do not want the police coming to your house and opening fire on everyone they see.

- Sensors on the gun, that if triggered, disable it for a few seconds.

- Have a wearable computer that interprets the sensor data. Not sure how to have it affect gameplay, but it seems you could tell the difference between a "kill" and a "flesh wound".

- If you have an arena of sorts, have sensors on the outdoor lights for night play.

- Have lots of little 4" x 4" mirrors up in odd places, for bank shots.

- Have everyone wear GPS. Send the output to a modified quake server...let people from around the world watch the virtual version of the game.

- Back when I was in college, and Laser Tag was relatively new, some smart-aleck wag figured out that it was nothing more than a glorified remote control. He got a programmable remote (a real one, that read another remote's signal, then duplicated it), put the Laser Tag signal into it, and voila! He had the Laser Tag equivalent of a sawed-off shotgun. He could take out several players at once with it. And often did.

- Suggestions of wiring eletrodes to the vest to zap players were met with blank stares and hostility. I still think that's the way to go... modify them from "laser tag" to "pain gun tag" :)

- The military has a more realistic system called MILES [army.mil], which they use for war games. It works much like laser tag, but their rules are tougher. MILES uses real weapons with blank rounds. The MILES laser transmitter clamps into the barrel, so if you do manage to load a live round, you destroy the transmitter and the weapon, but not your target. The "bang" of the blank round triggers the laser transmitter. So you have to lug ammo and magazines around. All the real-world problems of jams and misfires occur, too.

If you're hit, it beeps. Loudly. Continously. And you can't turn it off. Only a referee can turn it off. If you're hit, you're dead. You're carried off to the "dead" pen. Often, becoming "dead" means an extra 20-mile march or some similar unpleasant detail.

...The latest generation gear uses GPS and data links so that indirect fire weapons can be simulated. But you probably don't need that.

- M.I.L.E.S. (Multiple Integrated Laser Engagment System, in case you were wondering) is horrible. It is awful. It is so atrocious that I can't truly capture its badness except to say that it sucks about as much as a black hole.

Don't look into it. Don't consider it. Don't mention it...for gawdsake, don't even think about it.

I have been in the Army for about eight years now and I honestly cannot sum up how much I hate this system. I once told myself, "Self, I think I could be happy doing anything as long as I don't have to wear M.I.L.E.S gear."

Since I told myself that, I have spent significant time in swamps, deserts and everywhere in-between and I can tell you as a bone fide user that I preferred being in a hostile combat environment where I was getting shot at over wearing that crap in training.

- The one advantage that laser tag has [over paintball, etc.] is a scoring system. Of course, if you're a non-competitive type, this isn't an issue, but just thinking about this I can instantly remember being a kid and yelling "You missed me," despite having a little yellow bb lodged in my left eye.

Meanwhile, back at the mad scientist laboratory...if you have zero interest in running through the mud shooting stuff, but just want to muck about with a new project: DIY

[Source: slashdot.org]

Human Microwaves

Meanwhile, back at the "just a bit creepy" news front:

At the Air Force Research Laboratory in New Mexico, researchers working with Raytheon Co. have developed a weapon called the Active Denial System, which repels adversaries by heating the water molecules in their skin with microwave energy. The pain is so great that people flee immediately.

[Source: AP newswire]

Sounds like it could have been added to the list for modding laser tag gear, with few alterations.

Only they're not playin'.

SCI/TECH/Electric Graffiti
Graffiti Creator

Tag it, baby.

Because sometimes you just get the urge to paint on walls...

Also, another zenned-out way to waste time, while you mull over the implications of a weapon that sizzles people in their own skin, like they were a pair of chicken legs: take the Historical Lunatic Test.

Find more science news (and bits of interesting sci/tech stuff) in the August 2004 issue of "Arte Six".