We tried to make at least one log entry per shift entertaining for the next shift.
This was from a particle physics experiment. We were colliding negative pions into a target that was mostly protons (liquid hydrogen). There were millions of tiny collisions that had enough energy that allowed the creation of new particles. I was specifically interested in finding a few that would say something about the fundamental nature of the charm quark. The problem was such events were very rare - there was an enormous amount of uninteresting information to sort through.
You get rid of most of this - about 99.99%) very quickly by knowing something about what the physics of the interaction you were looking for predicted. This had to be done quickly as information was constantly flooding in. Back then we built event triggers out of fast logic elements - literally AND, NOT, OR, and NOR gates. It looks like a rat's nest as all of this had to be precisely timed. A one foot long wire provided about a billionth of a second of delay.1 We also had a more complicated trigger...
At the heart of two of our charm triggers was a then huge two megabyte memory array that allowed us to store the geometry of likely charm events directly. If an event fell within some predicted position and energy boundaries, it was saved to tape - if not we dropped it on the floor. This was a new revolution in physics at the time - programmable triggers.
What made it possible was the rapidly falling price of memory and the emergence of cheap microprocessors. There was a revolution underway with hobbyist computers fueled by eight bit chips like the Intel 8080 and Motorola 6800. We took advantage of it and I programmed the 6800 in assembly language to make it run as fast as possible. We were surfing the microcomputer tsunami.
A few years later I found myself at Bell Labs doing physics and applied physics. I found myself doing lithography - one of the fundamental technologies of the past few hundred years - how finely can you draw lines and something at the heart of making integrated circuits. The process was automated with computer aided design tools and the bits became atoms in the photomask. The process was a form of custom manufacturing. There were a couple of chemical processes for positive and negative image masks, several sizes of quartz plates, design rules and so on - but it was rare for the writing tool to write the same design unless it was a replacement.2
Somewhere along the way I did some work with a computer vision group. There was an interest in building a 3d copy machine. What would it take to scan an 3d image and recreate it in atoms rather than bits? A hot topic in the late 1980s and it continues to be interesting. Somewhere about 1990 I printed a crude 3d part taken that replicated a scanned model of the Star Wars death star.
My little death star wasn't very impressive, but it was an exercise you learn from. I went on to other things, but periodically tried state of the art printing just to see how it had evolved. By 2000 it started to make a dent in the prototyping world and, maybe 5 years ago, the hobbyist market began to explode.
There have been many predictions on how 3d printing is the next PC revolution or, a bit more conservatively, the next printer revolution. While it is fundamentally important to some types of design, I don't buy those predictions for a variety of reasons. Materials, physical limitations of existing and laboratory tools, and the difficulty of design drive my belief. But it is a great hobby and it is making a big impact on industrial design. And for a few like Iris Van Herpen, those who understand design and art, it is given access to new materials and shapes that influence their creative process.
There is a larger revolution underway that 3d printing is often connected with...
The revolution is inexpensive computer assisted manufacturing in low quantities. Mass customization and even single unit manufacturing. The barriers to manufacturing anything used to be enormous, but now hobbyists can find a niche. Perhaps a niche that would allow them to quit their day job. The hard piece -- going from a few dozen examples to thousands is now relatively easy.3
There are still many tools to build and write and people need to be trained in design (STEM k12 education is not sufficient - you need to add the arts - STEAM eduction!). Good design is approximately hard - most of us have no idea how difficult it really is. There is great design in physical objects and services, but the best way to appreciate it is simply to get your hands dirty - most of us are functionally illiterate when it comes to articulating design, let alone creating it.4
One can go on and on, but a recent interview of Chris Anderson by Glenn Fleishman (52 minute mp3) on his The New Disruptors podcast is a great tour of the new bits to atoms world of mass customization and scaleable manufacture
1 Rear Admiral and computer pioneer Grace Hopper used to carry around foot long wires and handed them out as "nanoseconds" In the old charm experiment all of the fast signals were timed to within about a half nanosecond. Colleen, who is exactly two meters tall, sometimes tells people she's six and two thirds of a nanosecond tall when people ask...
2 The lithography tools of choice were electron beam writing machines. We had a homebrew system called EBES - the Electron Beam Exposure System. It could write half micron features to about a twentieth of a micron accuracy. There have been enormous improvements since then.
3 I still regularly build 3d objects. They are still temperamental and very restricted to design and material. My larger interest lies in other types of mass customization. In particular clothing.
For those who are interested in this revolution - even those who just track the state of technology - I strongly encourage you to get your hands dirty. You can learn an enormous amount trying to design and 3d print something on your own for example.
4 This notion of the learning of design is something that has been fascinating Jheri and I for the past few months. How is design learned and articulated in apparel and how is that impacted by different types of community? There is a good deal of change taking place.
Two recipes this time. The first is so quick, easy and good. And many variations with topping them.
Roasted Brussels sprouts
° a kilo or so of brussels sprouts
° 3 to 4 tbl olive oil
° sea salt
° ground pepper
° maple syrup or honey
° white wine vinegar
° set oven to 450°F
° cut the brussels sprouts in half, coat in oil salt and pepper
° arrange face down on a tray and roast for 25 minutes or so until beginning to caramelize
° flip over with a spatula and continue roasting for about 10 minutes
° plate and drizzle a mixture of maple syrup or honey and white wine vinegar
The second is hardly a recipe, but is way better than store bought peanut/cashew/almond butters.
Find some honey-roasted cashews, almonds or peanuts and throw them in a blender for 5 to 6 minutes, scraping down the sides of the blender as necessary, until you have a peanut butter consistency.
If you like you can roast the raw nuts yourself (7 - 10 minutes in a 350°F oven), but the honey-roasted nuts (or legumes in the case of peanuts) have a little sugar and sweet and work out very well without all of the stabilizer nasties you get in most commercial spreads. If you roast your own you probably want to add a bit of salt and possibly some honey or maple syrup.