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Given that interest in the school/home physics projects seems to be growing I have created a mailing list for anyone interested in updates which saves periodically revisiting this page. I'm keeping them short and will mail out at the end of each month. Please email me if you wish to be included.

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1922diag

15/8/2019 - Oxford Stone #1

I'm cutting some stones for a display in the Oxford National History Museum. This is yellow smokey quartz from which I hope to cut something rather unusual......

Yellow smokey quartz for faceting
Yellow smokey quartz
Thanks you bernard
An Unusual Gemstone Cut

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14/8/2019 - Infrasound - completed draft paper

Completed first draft of a paper detailing the Infrasound monitor. This is taking some time, I have not had access to A-level physics students this year so am writing and testing with my 14yr old. Fortunately he is quite sharp picking up concepts quickly. Looking good, I think this could well form the basis of a national network.

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28/7/2019 - SidSpot - new antenna #2

Three boys helping one old git. They successfully wound over 1km of wire to form the primary loop of our new VLF antenna. Next - tuning.

VLF loop antenna
Chap with clipboard counting turns.
VLF loop antenna
Two chaps winding loop
VLF loop antenna
Taping up
VLF loop antenna
VLF loop antenna

VLF loop antenna
A thing of beauty.

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26/7/2019 - SidSpot - new antenna #1

The boys have started to wind the new VLF antenna for the SIDSpot project. This is an inductively coupled, double loop to recieve the magnetic component of VLF submarine transmissions. The secondary loop of 22 turns has been wound first onto a frame 90cm on each side, this connects to the tuner/amplifier. This loop inductively couples to the primary loop of around 300 turns which will be tuned to resonat at the desired frequency. 1.1 km of wire to wind tomorrow.

VLF loop antenna
VLF loop antenna, winding rig
VLF loop antenna
VLF loop antenna

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29/6/2019 - Back to Science Stuff

The Aurora Monitor is chugging away well and attracting notice. The Infrasound monitor needs the initial paper completing - still hanging fire a bit as I am considering how best to promote this as I have interest from a couple of geological societies. SIDSpot - solar flare monitor will be put online in a couple of weeks for beta testing.

I do like pushing the envelope a little and keep returning to chip design using VHDL. As far as I can tell there is but one programme in Europe, in Germany and limited to 25 kids, introducing pre-university students to this important area of computing/electronic engineering.

Must electronic engineers only meet this at degree level. The web is full of dire warnings about its complexity and difficulty. However I have got my head around the basics and if a thick 55yr old can then a keen A-level student should have little problem. I see an afterschool club 'Design a Chip' with a mix of digital theory (gates) and implementing simple designs on an F.P.G.A.

The government cretinously dumped A-level electronics a few years ago. Presumably budding electronic engineers are expected to study A-level physics which generally contains zero electronics. The only way presently for A-level students to get experience of electronics before jumping into such a recondite degree is either extra-curricula clubs or at home as a hobby. Good thing it is not essential to our economy and that electronic engineers are ten a penny.

I wonder what impact a student rocking up to a university interview day, listing maths, further maths and physics would make if they say. "B.T.W - in an afterschool club I implemented my own chip designs on a modern 400+MHz FPGA using VHDL". A course like this could be a first for the U.K. :-)

Need to check the state of the bank balance - but I will order a more up to date FPGA board. I should be able to work up a set of lessons and resources over the summer which I will likely put online.

FPGA Trainer Board
FPGA Trainer Board

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29/6/2019 - Blue Topaz Star of David - hmmm

Stars of David are very tricky to get right. This looks good in the flesh though not so good at high magnification. Whilst I can place facets to better than 1 /40 degree the slightest misalignment become apparent at high mag. I can now see why some faceters place the star in the pavilion (bottom) as the angles are less critical.

I think I'll leave them for the mo. I am prepared to cut one to commission but the cutting time may well be in excess of 20 hours - this will be expensive.

For the moment my religious/mystical are various crosses/crusader shields, Yin-Yang and the Lucifer cut.

Blue Topaz star of David
Blue Topaz - Star of David #1

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23/6/2019 - Blue Topaz Star of David

I have received some blue topaz from a dealer in N.Z. Currently working on a matched pair of Stars of David which should look nice in this light blue.

Uncut Blue Topaz
Uncut Blue Topaz

Preparing to polish the pavilion on the first stone

Cut blue unpolished pavilion
Cut, unpolished pavilion - Blue Topaz

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22/6/2019 - Rexy - Sapphire

'Rexy' by Robert Dodd - cut in sapphire

Rexy - Sapphire
Rexy - Sapphire

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15/6/2019 - Smithsonian Bar - Tourmaline

'Smith Bar' by Jeff Graham - cut in natural moss tourmaline

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12/6/2019 - Aurora Monitor Offline & Roadmap

I have taken the Aurora Monitor offline as it is behaving erratically. Will examine the PSU and sensor when I have a moment. I do however need to order 3 more as I am planning on making up a gradiometer over the summer. I will use the sensors from FGSensors so should be able to adjust the Aurora Monitor software for these.

On the subject of the summer I intend to complete the Infrasound write-up. Also write the papers on using GnupPlot for electron orbital simulation and one on a (hopefully) novel technique for efficiently detecting quasi-periodicity in very long random number sequences - I have never written a maths paper before! I will also put SIDSpot - Sudden Ionospheric Disturbance monitor online, we are presently bulding v2 of the circuitry and testing a new VLF antenna.

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22/4/2019 - Chopper Overhead

A police helicopter passed overhead on 20/4. The bulk of the power was in the 1-3Hz range (fig:1), this was then enhanced with a wavelet transform (fig:2).

Helicopter Infrasound
Filtered into bands, helicopter at ~0.18 and again at ~0.40-0.43

Helicopter Infrasound
Wavelet transform of above, chopper at 10-12 min and 23-27 min

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19/4/2019 - PLotting Electron Orbitals in Gnuplot and Python

Starting to play around with this. Initially I thought it may be of interest to pre-university physics/maths students. Hmmm - they would have to be keen. In the U.K. I believe that partial differentials are not on the further maths syallabus anymore and extension work beyond the syllabus is generally discouraged.

Anyhow, seems rather easier in gnuplot, I hope to publish a short guide to this by the summer. Will keep hammering away -- well past midnight - another day.

Electron orbitals using Python
Electron orbitals using Python

Electron orbitals using Gnuplot
Electron orbitals using gnuplot

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16/4/2019 - Infrasound - Seamer Windfarm - update - result!

I spoke too soon thinking we had not detected any infrasound at Seamer. I sat down with my 'test student' and he had a play with seismographic analysis software. Having filmed the turbine (vid) he determined a 'blade pass frequency' of 0.75Hz. We could reasonably expect this to be the fundamental frequncy and see signals at this and its harmonics. After trying various F.F.T. visualisations he did, exactly where predicted except for f0 which, whilst strong, was masked by noise (note -log scale). Chuffed :-)

Seamer Windfarm Infrasound
FFT plot of Infrasound at Seamer Windfarm

FFT plot of Infrasound from Seamer Windfarm
FFT plot
Wavelet transform infrasound Seamer
Wavelet transform infrasound Seamer
porous hose Infrasound
Porous Hose Infrasound Monitor - Seamer
Infrasound Student
Student

Tomorrow we hope to finalise the write-up which I intend to submit to an IOP journal. My test student has agreed to be a co-author. Rather pleasing, not many schoolkids get their names on peer-reviewed papers.

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14/4/2019 - Infrasound - local windfarm vs car journey

My 14yr old 'test student' and I popped over to a local wind farm at Seamer to see if we could observe infrasound signals from close to the base of turbine #5. Yes and no. Signals during the car journey dwarfed those at the site itself.

Seamer Windfarm Infrasound
Quiet gap in central outdoors, either side - car journey

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28/3/2019 - Easter Break Tasks

Been a bit busy of late but with an Easter break coming up I am planning to complete 3 papers and get SIDspot online - with a new antenna. The Infrasound Monitor write-up is almost ready for submission - just need a few more comparisions with another rig and, preferably an explosive test if I can get access to a local quarry. I have been working on plotting electron orbitals in gnuplot and should be able to get that polished up as well.

It has also been observed that the aurora monitor code does not scale correctly with the new fg-sensors, a replacement for the discontinued Speake FGM. I'll revisit this and calculate new scaling factors to correctly calculate the field.

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25/2/2019 - Infrasound - reading 3km apart

Today I took one Infrasound monitor to work leaving the other running 3kn away at home in the loftspace. At work the monitor was left in a car with the windows slightly open. The traces are similar implying the expected long-range correlation due to significant infrasound sources (as opposed to, for example very localised winds). Most of the plots below have signals above 0.5Hz removed - more analysis required but is now midnight. At 3km the monitors are separated by about the wavelength of 0.1Hz sound. Now if we can get identical monitors in schools/home to form a network we could be cooking :-)

Rig A: Home Loftspace Rig B: 3km away
Current InfraSound Plot
Raw plot
Current InfraSound Plot
Raw plot
Current InfraSound Plot
Acoustic Power 0.01 - 0.5Hz
Current InfraSound Plot
Acoustic Power 0.01 - 0.5Hz
Current InfraSound Plot
Wave Transform 0.01 - 0.5Hz
Current InfraSound Plot
Wave Transform 0.01 - 0.5Hz

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19/2/2019 - Arduino & OLED Display

Been playing around with an OLED display fed from an Arduino for my faceter protractor. After a bit of 'random monkey at the keyboard' I think I am getting the hang of it.

Some 40 yrs ago a teacher advised me to learn C - "everyone uses C". Typically, as a member of the awkward squad I refused and stuck with Algol & ForTran later adding Pascal, Python, Modula and Haskell. Teach was right. Horrible as C appears to me it is great for this sort of low level coding. (Rubbish for physics/maths simulations though IMHO.)

OLED Display
e by gum

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14/2/2019 - Faceting - high resolution protractor

Decided to retrofit an optical encoder to my facting machine as the cheap 'n cheerful one is playing up. I've ordered a 3600 cpr optical encoder from the US (US Digital E6), with quadrature encoding this should give a resolution of 0.025 degrees. I'll use an Arduino with a panel display for the readout and maybe fit a pressure sensor to the quill whilst I am at it. This probably means very little to most people - but its a cheap(ish) way of measuring angles on a machine bloody precisely.

Polyhedron faceter
My much adapted Polyhedron facter

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13/2/2019 - Big 200

Downloads of the Aurora paper from IOP have now hit 200 and today I received a very nice email from a school in Scotland that is building one - nice to get positive feedback, thanks. :-)

Chuffed to find that my logging software is now being used for a Raspberry PI based cosmic ray detector.

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9/2/2019 - Infrasound: Beach, Windfarm, Porous Hose and Cube

Spent some time today on Redcar beach opposite the Teeside Windfarm about 1km away. Well it was certainly consistently windy, the long flats resulting in a strong low ground wind parallel to the waves. The blades rotated at about 0.2Hz and one would thus expect signals at harmonics of this.

I tested both a 15m porous hose and a 30cm rigid foam cube windshield both on the exposed beach subjects to continuous strong ground level wind. The hose significantly attenuated pressure variation above ~0.5Hz with little effect below.

There was little evidence of the expected low frequency sound from the windfarm!

Infrasound Monitor on Redcar Beach
Foam cube windshield replaced by porous house at t=0.28hr (spike).)
Infrasound Monitor on Redcar Beach - wavelet transform
Infrasound Monitor on Redcar Beach - wavelet transform

Infrasound Monitor on Redcar Beach - wavelet transform

and now it's past midnight and I am going to bed...................

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8/2/2019 - Wind's Up & Income's Down

Rather breezy, now my foot appears to be recovering I am hoping to get out to Redcar tomorrow to try and observe Infrasound from the 62 MW Teesside Wind Farm.

I observe that with ~1500 hrs spent on developing projects over the past few years I have realistically lost £20k - £30k of income from my secondary employments. To this should be added the cost of travelling to display events, purchasing development kit such as power supply, scope etc. as well as the rather lower cost of the actual components. I certainly do not regret doing this and will not stop but .. hmm .. scary ...

At least the ball seems to be starting to roll now.

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2/2/2019 - Aurora Monitor - something is happening (up there!)

One can see at a glance that the usual diurnal cycle is disrupted - BGS and other international monitors concur.

Look to the skies....

aurora monitor
Summits up!

aurora monitor
Corresponding period from Aurora Watch at Lancaster University (centre plot)

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27/1/2019 - Infrasound - ObsPy - c.w.t. vs F.F.T.

Spent some time playing with simple fourier transform v continuous wavelet transform data visualisation. So far cwt seems most useful.

Additionally added a simple GUI to my python plotting routines.

Infrasound monitor - rigid foam filter
A variety of plots.
Infrasound monitor - rigid foam filter
Corresponding continuous wavelet transform.

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25/1/2019 - Infrasound - porous hose - initial impressions

Little difference between the hose and the 30cm rigid foam pond filter so far.

OK. The pond filter sits on the ground whilst the hose is suspended about 1m up the 2m garden fence - it would be better placed on the ground but that is not practical at the moment. The locatation is already pretty enclosed and the wind has been low for the past few days. Looking at various spectral plots no dramatic differences are apparent at various bands from 0.01Hz to 10Hz.

I'll take both monitors out to the beach or moorland when the wind is up to see if there is a difference in an exposed location.

Infrasound monitor - rigid foam filter
The monitor hose is terminated by a small funnel sat facing down in the cylindrical channel in the block which is then closed with the foam plug. This has sat outdoors for some 18 months without problems.

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20/1/2019 - Infrasound Monitor - porous hose

It is common to use porous garden hose as a windshield for Infrasound monitors (see pic 4/5/2018 below). Some arrived saturday and I made a fitting for the monitor. Initial results are interesting. Crude studies indicate that the hose passes signals below ~5Hz with little or no attenuation - spot on. This is inline with a number of papers I have read from the the US. I was hoping to go along to Redcar seafront to observe signals from the massive windfarm off-shore but, as luck would have it there was very little wind.

Next weekend I will post side by side comparisons of the hose with the rigid foam cube windshield (actually a pond filter) that I currently use outdoors.

Infrasound monitor - porous hose

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2/1/2019 - Infrasound Monitor - A Noisy Night

Both detectors picked up strong signals in the range 0.01-1.0 Hz between 1 and about 3 am. Quietening down for the rest of the night. Not sure if I know why however satisfying to see that they both record similar traces

Nocturnal Infrasound
Monitor Alpha - loftspace.
Nocturnal Infrasound
Monitor Beta - garden.

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1/1/2019 - Infrasound Monitor - New Year Fireworks

First hour of the new year - fireworks popping off for the first 30 minutes.

Infrasound New Year Fireworks 2019

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1/1/2019 - Aurora Monitor - Beach Test

Quick test in on Saltburn beach yesterday with the monitor about 200m from the surf. Waves were small at about 0.5m. Some evidence of enhanced signal in the range 0.2-0.7Hz but rather more testing required. Top image is from my loft - about 5 km from beach - bottom is the same period (+/- 1min) on the beach.

Infrasound Monitor on Saltburn Beach
Monitor 5km from beach.

Infrasound Monitor on Saltburn Beach
2nd monitor 200m from surf.

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31/12/2018 - Aurora Monitor

The Aurora Monitor seems to be working well. I noticed an unusual trace this a.m. This is in close agreement (top) with that from the British Geological Survey system (bottom- yellow trace) at Eskdalemuir

homemade aurora monitor
BGS aurora monitor

Finally managed to get down to the beach with it today, only 1 crutch.

Infrasound Monitor on Saltburn Beach
Mobile Infrasound Monitor (Orange) - PI (yellow) - usb power supply (purple) - stiff foam windshield (black), below - helper (hairy).

Infrasound Monitor on Saltburn Beach

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31/12/2018 - Stats

I deliberately do not log downloads from my github repositories. However as the year ends I note with a little satisfaction that the Aurora Monitor write-up -link has been downloaded from IOP (members or paid) 187 times whilst my doctoral thesis -link appears to be gaining interest with 83 to date.

Ian robinson's thesis nbownloads 2018

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26/12/2018 - Infrasound V2 - updated software

Spent a day messing around with the logging software. I was having a problem with the data-writes and plots causing the two rigs to drift from one another over 24 hours. Replacing multiprocessing with multithreading I/O routines appears to have sorted the problem.

External Infrasound Monitor
The two rigs on a single plot from midnight to ~10:30am, vertical scale is acoustic power. Rig Alpha (top) is in my loftspace, Beta is connected to a large foam windshield outdoors. Red line indicates sensor misread.

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24/12/2018 - Infrasound V2

Now built and tested v2 of the Infrasound monitor. This uses the same sensor as v1 though incorporates a realtime clock for mobile use. The metal enclosure backing volume in v1 has been replaced with a plastic one which is both cheaper and easier to drill.

mems infrasound monitor breadboard mems infrasound monitor breadboard mems infrasound monitor breadboard

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9/12/2018 - Infrasound Development

Spent this weekend working on the School Infrasound Monitor. The software has been rewritten, firstly to make it handle the very occasional read failure from the I2C sensor and secondly to use the multiprocessing capabilities of the latest PIs to prevent data-writes and plotting interupting sensor reads. This now appears to be working on both prototypes. The write-up for IOP/ASE publication is progressing

We also sorted the problems with adding a Real-Time Clock to the portable version (lacking a clock the PI does not know the time at boot unless connected to the Internet). I had used the 5V version of the preesure sensor rather than the 3.3V. The precise and cheap DS3231 R.T.C. I use accepts 3 or 5V however ... the PI cannot read from both the RTC (at 5V) and pressure sensor (5V) concurrently. I will specify the 3.3V mems sensor for the final version but as a workaround I used a logic level shifter, a device which is new to me. The breadboard looks a bit messy but the final version will be simpler and a doddle to make up - being self funded I did not want to order two new £35 sensors.

mems infrasound monitor breadboard
Looks much more complex than it really is - v3 will have only two electronic components on the breakout board the sensor and R.T.C. The grey box at the top is a simplified 'backing volume' - a pneumatic filter to remove pressure variations below about 0.01Hz.

Somewhat hampered by mobility problems at the mo following a bone graft. I need to get out to local windfarms and beaches to test the mobile system. Since I cannot drive .. Mrs Robinson - Taxi??

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17/11/2018 - Two Infrasound Monitors

We now have two monitors, one inside the house and one outide. I am surprised by the correletion between the two. In the early morning, when the house is quiet there is a remarkable similarity in the traces - my house is more porous than I thought, the internal pressure range is about half that outdoors i.e. ~-0.3 dB.

Rig A: Outdoors with windshield Rig B: Indoors
External Infrasound Monitor
External Infrasound Monitor- Raw Plot
Internal Infrasound Monitor
Internal Infrasound Monitor- Raw Plot
Fourier Wavelet Transform External Infrasound
External Infrasound Monitor- 00-01am Wavelet transform
Fourier Wavelet Transform Internal Infrasound
Internal Infrasound Monitor- 00-01am Wavelet transform

This makes me think of siting one in my loft. The tiles will permit ingress of signals and the lining is, effectively, a tent so the signal attenuation may not be so great. Unfortunatly this will have to wait a few weeks as, following a bone graft etc. in my foot ladders are probably a poor idea.

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8/11/2018 - Infrasound Fireworks

It was my eldest's 16th today. His school celebrated with two long tests whilst we set off a 36 shot mortar pack firework in the back garden (note to self -do not try and hasten away from a lit firework on crutches again - duck & weave). I was not expecting much very low frequency output following my experiments on a firing range. However we did see strong signals in the range ~2-5Hz.

As I have said before - this is the sort of immediate excitement that kids sudying science need (checking the logs not running away from lit fireworks).

Infrasound mortar fireworks
~2 minutes Infrasound from a 36 shot mortar firework . strong signal 1-5Hz.

Fourier Wavelet Transform Infrasound fireworks
Fourier Wavelet Transform - note vertical signal lines (vscale is log f)

Fourier Wavelet Transform Infrasound fireworks
Wavelet Transform - filtered out below 0.1Hz

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5/11/2018 - Infrasound woes and 'scope porn

Spent some time this weekend working on v2 of the School Infrasound Monitor with middling son - who is better at soldering than I. Went well but ran into some problems getting the Pi to talk consistently via i2c over a 1m cable to the pressure sensor. I am guessing that this is a capacitance problem possibly exacerbated by the use of veroboard, unfortunately I am between oscilloscopes so tricky to check directly.

I have to keep retiring to bed to elevate my foot leading to too much ipad browsing. Whilst checking out 'scope porn' on Farnell I see that the basic Keysight 1000 series are now a sane price £500-£1000 -link. .. Dear Father Christmas ...

Boys soldering infrasound
He does insist on bloody lead-free solder, though Hakko soldering irons are highly recommended.

Simplified Backing Volume
Simpler and cheaper backing volume

Snazzy Trapezoidal case
Snazzy Trapezoidal case

Getting the sensor to work is no problem! I have already written the monitoring software and had it running for about a year. Sorting out a case and decent interconnects is problematic. I must have spent 5-10hrs obsessively trawling for cheap circular signal connectors. Expensive ones, such as Binder no probs, cheap ones rather tricky - I am tempted to recommend simply having 4 Dupont terminated connectors emerging via a grommit from the case for the school/home version.

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27/10/2018 - Bedtime

Just returned home after orthopaedic surgery on one foot that will leave me relativly immobile for some time. I intend to focus on writing up and promoting the Infrasound sensor project during the evenings. I have good hopes in getting a couple of national geology/geophysics institutes interested. If we can find a couple of schools/colleges/universities in the U.K. who want to play we can put in for an outreach grant via the IOP, STFC and similar. At less than £100 per centre a couple of grand can easily get a nationwide network running. I need to buy a new oscilloscope though and a decent sig-gen.

I will also get SIDspot - the sudden ionospheric disturbance monitor online by the end of the year though this is a project primarily for promotion 2019-2020.

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15/10/2018 - Hiatus

Not posted any news as I have had 'a bit on'. Likely to be going for surgery at some point which will leave me bedbound for some time. I am planning on spending part of this writing up two more papers for submission detailing the Infrasound and possibly the SID detector. I have high hopes of these, especially the Infrasound rig which would represent some rather innovative school science.

The solar flare detector has hit over 170 downloads and a fair bit of email interest which is pleasing .

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28/08/2018 - CUDA ForTran is go

Those nice people at PGI have released a community version of their Fortran compiler with CUDA support i.e. no-cost. No need for me to port my ForTran visual diffraction codebase to C. Need to play with it but hopefully I can now build code in ForTran to exploit the parallel-processing capability of NVidia graphics cards. Might even be able to do a little of this with keen A-level students if I get to run a 'scientific' programming enrichment again.

Installed and compiled a simple test program this evening - will need to test CUDA when I am more awake.

--- Update -- compiled and ran a program on multiple GPUs.

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27/08/2018 - Aurora Monitor - a hit!

Part of the joy in building such sensors is the excitement on checking the daily plots. Yesterday I noticed that the daily magnetometer plot looked atypical. During quiessence one expects a a diurnal cycle as shown in the top image - caused by ionisation of the upper atmosphere in sunlight. The middle plot shows 26/8/18 a distinctly atypical plot indicating changes in the solar wind possibly heralding an aurora. For comparison the third image is the same day from the British Geological Survey instrument at Eskdalemuir, the yellow plot is for a magnetometer orientated East West as is my instrument. The bottom image (green line) are the BGS hourly standard deviation from the norm clearly indicating a solar storm event during this period. It works.

This is the excitement that kids studying science need!

Typical plot during solar quiessence 21/8/18
Typical local plot during solar quiessence

Plot during solar storm 26/8/18
Local plot during minor solar storm 26/8/18

BGS Magnetometer during solar storm 26/8/18
BGS Magnetometer during minor solar storm 26/8/18 (yellow line)

BGS Hourly deviations during solar storm 26/8/18
BGS Hourly deviations during minor solar storm 26/8/18 (green line)

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23/08/2018 - Smoky Quartz - Test Cut

A quicky photo of recent test cut - included smoky quartz (i.e. the marks are internal not on the surface), design 'Smithsonian' Bar by Jeff Graham.

faceted smoky quartz, smithsonian bar cut
Faceted smokey quartz, Smithsonian Bar by Jeff Graham

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15/08/2018 - SIDSpot - fun with KiCAD

Version 5 of KiCAD is out and I have spent a couple of days playing with it. Now building a Spice simulation of one of the SIDSpot circuits. I am pursuing two approaches here - giving teams of students plenty of different opportunities. This circuit below uses a tuned antenna connected to a tuner/amplifier. Lots of nice basic electronics here for GCSE and A-level physics students with plenty of room for adaptation. The second does away with the tuner, rather the amplified signal from the antenna is sampled by a fast sound-card then F.F.T. is used to extract multiplie desired signals. I have got this working on a Raspberry PI (I think). More testing required.

acoustic power
Gyrator III based S.I.D. Detector Circuit in KiCAD

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28/07/2018 -Infrasound trace - violent thunderstorm starting at approx 19:15.

It rumbled on for a few hours.

raw plot acoustic power
Infrasound during violent thunderstorm

raw plot acoustic power
Violent thunderstorm infrasound - continuous wavelet transform

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4/06/2018 - 2nd Infrasound Monitor

Ordering parts for a 2nd infrasound monitor - mems sensor and ciruitry being identical to the first. This should allow me to check whether they are both picking up the same signals. I will make minor casing and port changes to the new one to make building less fiddly and permit easy connection of a porous hose windfilter. This should be a little better for mobile readings -- windfarms, airfields and quarries ahoy. I am looking into an opensource server system to permit easy integration of signals from a range of sensors. i.e. If I get get some schools across the U.K. and Europe interested we could then combine signals to for a network of infrasound, aurora, lightning and S.I.D detectors.

Cheap and opensource -- excellent projects for schools and oddles of good publicity.

Ian :-)

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3/06/2018 - Padparadscha Sapphire - 'Alien Outpost'

5.5ct 10mm high, symmetrical. The cut is 'Alien Outpost' by Greg Glenn - a classic gemstone designer. 49 facets optimized for sapphire. This stone was very slowly cut, mostly on 3000 grit, polished on 8000 grit and finished on 100,000 grit using a ceramic lap for maximum sparkle and flatness.

sapphire1 sapphire2 sapphire3
Padparadscha Sapphire - Alien Outpost Design

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2/06/2018 - Brazilian Amethyst - 'Cube Illusion'

An unusual and rather difficult cut. Reminds me of an Escher drawing, when moved the central cube appears and disappears. This particular cut is surprisingly tricky and rather time consuming, I went through a number of stones before I got it right. It took so long that I am unlikely to do another for some time. 9-9.1 mm high. A very deep brazilian purple.

cube Illusion 1 cube Illusion 2
Amethyst - Cube Illusion Design

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1/06/2018 - Lab/Station Space

I have been hampered by a lack of lab space for my geophysics sensors. Thus I have spent 4 days clearing out my loft. Removing water tanks. reinsulating, boarding and finally creating a warm space. I expect to use one third of this for emplacing various sensors - the aurora monitor is running and I can start experimenting with new antenna for the SidSpot system. There are three wired ethernet ports, decent lighting and dedicated mains and USB power. Rather chuffed!

loft loft
Emplacing sensors in new loftspace

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22/05/2018 - Time to get moving

I now feel I am in a position to roll out. I have three established projects (though the SID detector needs some more testing). I aim for a project budget of no more than £100 which should be enough to keep a team of, say 6 students busy for a year or so. Each project could run easily run for years with improvements and testing. All that excludes the data analysis with data fed 24/7 to a school website. It gets quite addictive, the first thing one does in the morning is check the previous day's plots. Most kids have never experienced the excitement of such real data gathering. Nor have many undergraduates! We are talking solar flares, aurora and infrasound.

I have a couple of university departments and two National Institutes in the UK in mind who I am thinking on approaching for support. I feel we could really get the ball rolling on this and have some excellent real science projects in geophysics and space science running in schools and colleges. Rather then sending out a shiny box the students build, test and improve upon these low-cost initial designs. Hands-on science with a real sense of involvement and ownership.

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19/05/2018 - Infrasound Monitor Moved

For the past couple of weeks the infrasound monitor has sat in my loft - my assumption being that the tiled roof will act as a wind baffle. The weather has been quiet and the plots show this with spikes and noise at various times of the day with quiescence in-between. The background noise appears to be of the order of +/- 0.15 Pa - not bad at 1:600,000 of atmospheric pressure.

Today I moved the rig to my garden in preparation for boarding out the loft. Started and abandoned as we are in a minor heat wave - hot air rises Ian!. When boarded I will been able to emplace 10m dipole and various loop antenna I have been testing for the SidSpot. This is a sudden ionospheric disturbance monitor which should spot solar flares. I previously had a team of A-level physics students sucessfully build one though the kit was effectively all analog. My new design has a lower noise pre-amp, integrates with a PI/PC and allows for much student testing and variation of the antenna, pre-amp and digital interface -- nice and open-ended.

In a school with the ability to emplace two large loop antenna one should be able to spot GRBs - gamma-ray bursts from neutron stars. Now kids will be doing real cutting edge space science.


raw plot acoustic power

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17/5/2018 - and now for something completely different

Started cutting the silver for a heavy ring for a friend at work. Bit too thick to bend into a ring. It should really be cast but with plenty of annealing along the way I may be able to avoid cracking.
Kim's ring!
Kim's Ring #1.

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14/5/2018 - S.I.D Musings

Reading, thinking and tinkering. I am going off using a software defined radio for the school/college version of my Sudden Ionospheric Disturbance monitor (SidSpot). I want a project that allows tinkering and easy expansion/improvement. Coding an SDR for a PI which allows monitoring of signal strength at specific frequencies is too heavy a topic for school kids. I want to avoid, as ever an overly neat solution that becomes another shiny box in the corner of the lab. I am returning to individual tuning circuits for each frequency feeding into a PI for logging. I feel that kids would enjoy building and testing the circuits and could then, if keen potentially improve upon them and experiemnt with alternate designs. I had a group build such a monitor 4 years ago though they ran out of time before getting it online. I feel they learnt much from the process - looked v.good on their UCAS applications too.

I am boarding out my loft over the next half-term and can set aside space for loop antenna, my aurora monitor and other projects.

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9/5/2018 - More soviet surplus goodies

Postie today delivered a package from Russia. Various Lithium Niobate prisms for me to facet. Like the tantalate probably surplus from the high-tec defense programs of the 80's. A clear opto-electronic ceramic with a high refractive index - close to that of diamond. Rare stuff.

null rifle signature plot
one of a number of lithium niobate pieces for faceting.

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6/5/2018 - Chillin with white sapphire

Relaxing with a change of scene. Continuing to cut a white sapphire which I have been neglecting under pressure of work- 'Sweetheart' cut - same size and cut as the one somewhere below.

null rifle signature plot
White sapphire on faceting machine.

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6/5/2018 - Infrasound: a null result

I had forgotten the sheer excitement and frustration of research. Today I carried out a field test at a firing range. I assumed that fullbore rifles would create some discernable infrasound signal - I appear to be wrong. The sensor was sited approx 100m behind the firing point where some 8 shooters were using target rifles - mostly .308 calibre. Nothing! A crude calculation would give the fundamental frequency of the barrel at about 150 Hz, whilst I am measuring well below 20Hz. However I am still surprised that so little infrasound is generated given the thump these rifles give. Time to go off to somewhere with really big machines to give it a test - I am thinking jet engines.

This project could be superb for students. Coding, electronics, constuction, real testing (lots of big loud things - truck engines, jet engines, windfarms), signal processing and data analysis all in a little studied field. The system is cheap and easily portable. Kids could take them home for the weekend and monitor infrasound in their locales.

null rifle signature plot driving home plot
Infrasound from fullbore rifles - null result.

The dates and times are incorrect due to the systems lack of a real-time clock. I will be adding a GPS module for more accurate timekeeping and location logging

The spike at 195 and after 230 minutes were caused by car doors closing and driving off. The monitor was working - the second plot was recorded as I drove home.

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4/5/2018 - Infrasound Update

The Infrasound monitor is currently offline. the system has been tested with a USB battery and runs for a couple of days happily. I will be spending May/June performing field tests near likely infrasound sources including windfarms, beaches (the surf), fullbore rifle ranges, quarries et al. I am planning a second monitor, the same sensor rig as the first but with a spiral hose noise reduction system. Such a device will be capable of being installed for a few hours at a test site and should give similar performance to a permanent fixed arm system.This should allow me to compare the perfomance of the two system if they in close proximity. I need to find a suitable location for semi-permanent installation but have a couple in mind. With that we will be cooking - hopefully!
infrasound wind reduction
Spiraling-outward microporous hose connected to a microbarometer at Piñon Flat Observatory 9 ref: l2a.ucsd.edu/pub/WalkerHedlin_NoiseReduction_Springer2010.pdf

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29/4/2018 - Maker Faire

Had an excellent time at M:F. Interest from a number of attendees with some follow up to do.
MakerFaire2017
Me: knackered after talking for the best part of two days.

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22/4/2018 - Maker Faire next weekend

Getting ready to show-off my school/home geophysics projects next weekend. Made up a poster, faffed around in Adode Illustrator (too complex), Scribus (too fiddly), Powerpoint (too Microsoft), before returning, once again to LaTex-Beamer. Just right.

Maker faire Poster

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2/4/2018 - A sapphire in a novel setting

A pressie for Mrs Robinson. 'Sweetheart Cut' (design by the late Jeff Graham) 5ct sapphire cut by myself. I was going for a minimalist setting with the stone 'floating' above. Beveled sterling silver bar about 4cm tall. Rather pleased with how it turned out. The photo is a bit lousy but looks very tasty in the flesh.
Sapphire in a setting

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10/3/2018 - Playing with my new Video Card

Took delivery of a new computer this week with 640 GPU cores. I have spent a few hours trying to adapt some python progs to offload processing to the video card (CUDA) - with some success. I intend to rebuild my virtual diffraction code to make use of the parallel processing available with such cards. Tempted to write the core in ForTran partly as I can more easily see & control what is happening and, partly to infuriate computer scientists.

Sample 2d contour plots of partly filled Pd-H I41 /amd lattice in hk0 and hk1. Approx 1012 ray paths calculated, 106 atoms projecting onto a 106 pixel detector.

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4/3/2018 - Rebuilt Infrasound Monitor

Rebuilt from scratch with new case and internal components ready for the MakerFaire in April. Seems to be functioning and uploading to this site in realtime -link. I will prep a new paper and sort build / software instructions for github in due course. I think this could be a goodie.

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3/3/2018 - Exotic Faceting Material

Postie delivered a package from Russia containing three pieces of Lithium Tantalate - LiTaO3. An exotic optoelectronic ceramic, little cut due to scarcity, high refractive index (2.2) and crazy high dispersion (0.128) - three times that of diamond. Given where it was posted from and the date of 1978 I suspect this is old stock from the soviet high-tec defense industry. Rare stuff, I will have to think carefully about suitable cuts.

LiTaO3 prism
A relic of the soviet defense industry

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2/3/2018 - Aurora Monitor: construction details & code updated on github

Available at https://github.com/starfishprime101.

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19/2/2018 - Aurora Monitor: Paper Published

Available at https://doi.org/10.1088/1361-6552/aaacb2.

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24/1/2018 - Paper on Aurora Monitor Accepted :-)

Feeling rather chuffed, the paper describing my Aurora Monitor has passed peer review for the I.O.P. so should be published at some point soon in Physics Education. Hopefully it may generate some interest in the U.K. and overseas. Unfortunately I am close to giving up on pushing novel projects in the U.K. Here relentless focus on exam mark league tables and the effective elimination of practical assessment is killing off innovation in hands-on science education. I have had more interest from mainland Europe than locally. I do continue to promte such projects in the U.K. and would be more than happy to give help and guidance to any schoolor individual interested in having a go.

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12/1/2018 - Maker Faire is Go

My application to display the Aurora and Infrasound Monitors has been accepted for this year's Maker Faire in Newcastle on 28th & 29th April . Time to get moving on tidying up the Infrasound rig and put the software on GitHub

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29/12/2017 - Submitted Paper

Submitted a paper on the Aurora Monitor to the I.O.P. Physics Education Journal.

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26/12/2017 - Maker Faire etc.

Application to display at the Makerfaire, Newcastle 2018 submitted. Final revisions to Aurora Monitor write-up before submission to IOP Physics Education journal.

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5/11/2017 - Maker Faire & Writing Up

Still mulling over an article on the Aurora Monitor I am writing -link. Aso applying to demonstrate the Aurora Monitor and Infrasound Monitor at the Maker Faire in Newcastle next year.

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011/10/2017 - Distracted by Code

Website now html5 compliant.

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08/10/2017 - Writing Up

I have not been idle. I have been writing up the Aurora Monitor hopefully for publication in Physics & geophysics Education Journals later this year. The code has been further refined and simplified and I have been testing stitching together the daily magnetometer plots for analysis of longer term trends using ObsPy. I have also set up a public GitHub account to distribute code and documentation.

7 daily datafiles resampled and plotted on one figure

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12/8/2017 - Streamlined Code

The codebase for the Infrasound and Aurora monitors has been rewritten and simplified. Data is now stored in miniseed format permitting easy analysis using python/obspy. The aurora monitor in particular now uses significantly less system resources. The aurora monitor is glitching though this is likely to be a result of a faulty voltage regulator which will be replaced shortly. A new cheaper tunable backing volume for the infrasound monitor has been built using a sytinge and a hand-drawn glass capillary which will be trialled over the next few days. I will complete full write-ups of the construction method and release the code within the next couple of weeks.

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27/7/2017 - Mean Acoustic Power - Sabic Gas Flare

I have extended the code to produce estimates of the time-averaged acoustic intensity averaged over a rolling window. The plot below shows the previous Sabic flare data in the 0.01-2Hz band, averaged over a 5s window, the vertical scale is Wm-2

A plot
5s time-averaged acoustic intensity 0.01-2Hz, flaring approx between red-blue lines

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20/7/2017 - Infrasound Signal from Sabic Gas Flare

SABIC’s Olefins 6 plant at Wilton, Teesside is 5.5 km from the sensor and separated by low hills. The plant began 'flaring' at approx 07:25 (U.T.C.) on 18_7_2017 (Video). The burn lasted until approx 17:00 the following day.

The sensor appears to have picked this up - illustrated below. The preceeding and following day are included for comparison. The two figures exhibit filtering of 0.01-15 Hz and 0.05-2 Hz, with the red and blue lines denoting approximate start and end of the flare. The vertical axis shows pressure variation in Pa.

A plot A plot
Above 0.01-15Hz : below 0.05-2 Hz. Flaring approx between red-blue lines

I am hoping to roll this out as a national project for schools & colleges if I can find partners who are interested in kids learning hands-on physics/signal processing/geophysics. I am presently looking overseas rather than the U.K. but would be happy to see these running on this side of the channel.

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28/6/2017 - Now with Wavelet Transform

using the data from plots of 27th June - continuous wavelet transform

A plot A plot A plot

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27/6/2017 - More Spectrograms

Using the Obspy Spectrogram routines, now able to easily zoom to section of a spectrogram. Axes labels need sorting, Plots show 8 hour period from midnight. Top plot = filtered in bands from a: unfiltered b:0.001 - 2Hz,c: 2 - 5 Hz, c: 5-10Hz, e: 10-18Hz. Middle plot = 8 hr spectrogram. Bottom plot = zoomed in on pulse at 2800 seconds.

Sensor located in a sheltered surburban garden, plots run from midnight to 8 am.

A plot A plot A plot

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12/6/2017 - Initial Spectrograms

Initial Spectrogram Initial Spectrogram
Spectrograms over 1 hour

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7/6/2017 - Optimised Python Code to Store Data Sorted

Working, now have a simple Python program to store binary data from the pressure sensor with a freeform text header. Reads fine. Now working a a separate plotting and analysis program. I hope to show this off at a physics teacher meeting in Durham at the end of the month. Presently investigating forming a network in schools / universities outside the U.K.

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27/5/2017 - Down in the Coding Dungeon

I have been busy for the last month with the day job and other things. However I have a couple of students who have make up an aurora monitor using a Speake F.G.M. They are about to emplace it and start running tests.

The Infrasound detector is still my primary interest. To that end I have been coding the data storage software. I looked at using one of the excellent open-source seismomitry packages such as PySAC from Lawrence Livermoore. However I am coding from scratch - partly from personal preference and partly as this is to be a school & college project then I want the software to be as simple as possible so that students can adapt and improve.

Getting there though Python's handling of binary data (text files are too inefficient) is 'peculiar'. Mixing text and binary coded floating point values even more so.

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1/4/2017 - Maker Faire Newcastle

Spent the day presenting my Aurora Monitor and prototype Infrasound monitor. Lots of interest, mostly from universities and obverseas teachers - which was great though a little sad that the british system seems to set little regard by practical project work. I had many informative chats with people who have given me a host of ideas on how to improve it. I will be redesigning the code base and hardware for final release of v1.0 by the summer.

MakerFaire2017
Family at MakerFaire 2017

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26/3/2017 - Infrasound Monitor

Success! I have moved from the SMI chip to the DVLR sensor. I am now reading both pressure differential and temperature directly with a Raspberry Pi rather than via an Arduino. The code is surprisingly simple - once you known how - getting to know how has taken quite a few hours. But am now reasonably proficient in i2c via the smbus interface in python. First time I have done bit masking using AND and OR in many years. Even BIG-ENDIAN and LITTLE-ENDIAN have been dredged from the murk of my memory.

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19/3/2017 - Infrasound Monitor

A frustrating weekend spent attempting to interface to the SMI9543 differential pressure sensor. I must have spent ~20hrs between Fri and Sat night trying to talk to this chip. I thought the problem was its non-standard i2c interface so spent many hours trying with two different Arduinos and two Raspberry PIs before finally concluding that I had probably blown the chip whilst soldering it to a breakout board.

In retrospect an expensive surface mount device is probably a poor choice for a school project so have decided to try the All-Sensors DVLR. This apparently has better resolution and is available in through hole mounting. Casing and backing volume coming on and the processing software is being rewritten. Hoping to get it working and retested before the MakerFaire on 1st April.

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