Legos and LEDs

Zombie Timmy LegoLast week Dan pointed me to an article on EvilMadScientist.com about putting LEDs into Legos.

I don’t know anything at all about electronics but it seemed pretty straightforward so I figured I’d give it a shot.

My first attempt was good old Zombie Timmy. I’ve created him in so many different media at this point it seemed like a natural first try.I picked up some 5mm LEDs at radio shack and used a coin battery like the article said. I was happy to see that there was no resistor necessary.

I sawed his neck off and drilled a hole big enough for the LED. Next I drilled out his eyeballs, and a hole in the back to run the LED’s leads out.

Then I went to work painting up a new Zombie Timmy body. A little blood here, a little dirt there, and I was done. I got a pretty encouraging result – he looks great with his evil, red-glowing eyes! The ring of red around his neck looks a little doofy. That’s the bottom rim of the LED. I will have to watch for that in the next project.
Borg Lego

After that, I figured I would try a Borg. Borg are fun to make because you get to make all these little imaginary circuit diagrams on them.

I followed the same construction technique as with Zombie Timmy, except I only drilled out one of the eyes. I also painted black around the bottom rim of the LED so light doesn’t pour out of his neck.
The only thing I’m not happy with is the way the battery sticks out the back (it’s tucked away behind the figures in both of the photographs here). I picked up a couple battery holders and would like to create a diorama-type setup with the battery holder and possibly a switch behind the wall.

My next project in this vein will be a new version of my Lego Sam Fisher, but this time with gren LED goggles.

Splinter Cell Double Agent

my Lego Sam FisherThe new Splinter Cell game is out, but to cut to the chase: it’s very disappointing. The graphics are great but I’m sort of past being blown away by graphics at this point. I feel like they changed the camera. It seems much closer to Sam and is sort of hard to see what is going on around him. I wonder if they brought the camera in so tight to compensate for the very detailed graphics; this way they don’t have to show as much on the screen at once.

The training levels are freaking terrible (and stolen from Metal Gear Solid) BUT there’s achievements for both so you pretty much will do them anyhow. At one point my screen was literally filled with Sam’s face as he worked his way along a wire – hello crazy camera!

The game starts out like a James Bond movie – you’re in the middle of a mission. When that mission ends, you get the opening. The new moves are cool – I liked pulling a guy down through a hole in the ice.

The story is a bit disjointed at the beginning. I feel like they had 2 competing stories and smashed them together. I don’t want to give anything away (although everyone probably knows it by now) but it just feels like kind of a hack job.

An interesting thing is that they have now put more emphasis on how you finish a level. You get a big scoreboard at the end that gives you your “stealth score”, with subtractions for alarms raised, bodies found, etc. Also, completing optional goals (“Enter base without alerting enemy”, etc) unlocks new gadgets. So you do have some incentive to stay stealthy.

My biggest complaint about the game is the loading times. They’re insane. Just to get from the training levels back to the training level is sooooooo long. The longest on any 360 game I can think of. That’s to load a menu with 2 options on it. I guess it’s because they have all this video and whatnot going on in the background of the menus – I would definitely rather just have the menu load immediately with a static background.

The last straw was arriving at the secret hideout and having to do another training level. I finally threw up my hands and said “This isn’t fun!” Between that and the camera it just wasn’t as good as Splinter Cell games of yore.
I didn’t get around to trying the multiplayer stuff, so no comment on that.

I returned Splinter Cell, and put my credit toward Gears of War, which I hope doesn’t disappoint!

Beer Trek Lives Again

Well, I didn’t get it done in time for Star Trek’s 40th anniversary as I had planned, but the redesign of Beer Trek, our Star Trek drinking game, is finally done.

Beer Trek has been online for over 10 years now, and for the last few years it has been barely alive. I hope this breathes some new life into a project that I would be sad to see fade away.

Improvements include a somewhat less ugly design, a completely data-driven (and queryable) rules page, and a nifty new insignia. We’ve also finally got some more Voyager and Enterprise rules in. In November when the animated series DVDs release we will have new rules for that section too. We’re always open to new rule ideas, so if you’ve got one, Submit to Beer Trek!

Stardust@Home

I’ve been participating in the Stardust@Home project. It’s in the same spirit as the SETI@Home project, except you’re actually doing something instead of just donating computer cycles.

The Stardust spacecraft flew near comet Wild2 in January 2004. Returning to Earth in 2006, it brought back particle samples from the comet’s coma.

The Stardust@Home project has scanned the aerogel collector from the spacecraft. Volunteers go online and (after taking online tutorials and passing a test) examine a tiny area at a time searching for interstellar dust particles. If you believe you’ve found something you mark that slide.

In and of itself, not a very exciting activity, but it’s pretty cool to have a chance to be a part of space science from your own home. Or office – I’ve been examining samples at lunch. I can hold a turkey burger in one hand and work the “virtual microscope” with the other. The project keeps track of your statistics, as well as throwing in the occasional “calibration” slide to keep you on your toes and measure your effectiveness.

Here’s my current stats:

Calibration Movies Answered Correctly 61    
Calibration Movies Answered Incorrectly 3
Your Overall Score: 58
Total Real Movies Viewed: 154
Your Rank: 7054 out of 16171
Specificity: 100%
Sensitivity: 92%

I’ve identified only 2 possible dust particles so far. Other volunteers view the same slides for confirmation and then it moves on to the scientists. Haven’t heard any verifiction yet. It supposedly takes a while.

October 12, 2006 | Posted in: Astronomy | Comments Closed