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April 22, 2015

More broken hardware

   Today I got new shunt resisters which were to increase the range of my current measurements.  However, after I wired the first one in, I seemed to inadvertently destroyed every single current sense op amp in the setup.  They are disgustingly sensitive devices and I now hate them.  I've killed two already, and this makes a total of 5.  The thing about them I hate the most is they are surface mount parts on an through-hole adapter board.  Surface mount sucks for bread boarding.  The adapters are expensive and the pads fall off if you try and switch parts.  I'm not happy about this at all.  Clearly, I am not a good electrical engineer.

February 12, 2014

Southwest Trip Day 5

Very Large Array

Very Large Array

   The first destination of the day was the Very Large Array radio astronomy observatory.  Most people have seen it, even if they don't know what it is called or what it is used for.  As a Carl Sagan fan I knew it from Cosmos.  Others know it from the movie Contact.  The site is like an icon for astronomy, and as such I was on pilgrimage.
   Rather lazy getting out of bed this morning and slept until 8:00 am.  Had stopped in Lemitar, New Mexico and was about an hour away from my destination.  As I drove through the very empty country I recall seeing one of the dishes of the VLA in the distance and yelled out "There it is!" 
   I stopped on the way in to take some pictures, then went to the visitors center.  All around were signs asking people to turn off their cellphones.  We were in the middle of nowhere and had no service anyway, so it's not anyone was going to miss a call.  The antenna are so sensitive they can hear the beacon from a cellphone even if aimed upward just from having a cellphone on the grounds.  The array was configured in a mix with two legs in the B configuration, and one in the A configuration.  The A configuration is the most spread out, and B is the second most.  They were actually moving dishes that day, although I didn't see any moving while I was there.  So I am not sure if they were acquiring any data or not.  Because they listen to radio frequency they can see the stars during the day even if we cannot.
   The visitors center is free and begins with a video about the array.  They had Jodi Foster (the star of Contact) narrate the video, and I learned the site has actually been used for several media events (movies, music videos, ext).  The array itself has recently been upgraded to cover a wider range of radio frequency, and a more powerful data processing center.  Each dish produces 109 GBit/sec of data, and all 27 dishes are fed into a computer that has to continuously put 2.9 terabits/sec of data together.  All this data is saved to disk and analysis.  The sensors in each dish have to be cooled to 15 °K (-432.67 °F or -258 °C) so the heat from being a black body radiation doesn't interfere with readings.
   To me visiting this place made the trip worthwhile.  I could have gone back home that day and been happy.  It was really a privilage to stand next to this interment.  Science engineering at it's finest.  Makes me feel I need to work harder so that one day I might contribute my abilities to helping projects like the VLA.  Very inspirational.
   My next stop was to be at White Sands National Monument.  However, some dummy at White Sands Missile Range went and crashed a drone in the park.  275 square miles of desert, and they had to crash in the only part of it open to the public when I was in town.  The closest I got was pulling over on the side of the road were a dune was escaping the park.
   Stopped at a rest area in Texas Canyon around 11:00 pm.

February 08, 2014

Southwest Trip Day 1

   Eve Liberty (my car) is loaded.   My laptop has a map with a bunch of locations marked off.  The (borrowed) GPS is mounted to the window.  My bed in the trunk is prepared for winter sleeping.  A cooler has all the parts for making me a sam'ich, drinky stuff and a shovel full of snow to keep it cool.  I had to visit a friend before departing, and took a nap at the Garage for a couple hours before finally getting underway.  My goal was to get close to St. Louis before turning in for the night, and I ended up turning in around 3:00 am.

February 09, 2014

Southwest Trip Day 2

St. Louis

St. Louis

   Slept comfortably in my trunk and woke up to 20 °F (-6.7 °C) temperatures.  I had pulled into a truck stop in McLean, Illinois for the night.  After reluctantly getting out of my warm sleeping bag I was back on the road.  Just a full day of driving, and I finished at a truck stop in Kellyville, Oklahoma (just south west of Tulsa).  I was a little supprised that the temperature was still in the 20ies despite now being more than 500 miles further south, but I don't like heat so this is a good thing.

1 comment has been made.

From Liz


February 27, 2014 at 4:12 PM

Have you ever taken the elevator inside the arch up to the top?