We Alone in Washington

Good news, everbody! This humble blogger has landed one of the most kickass internships in the world with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. We'll be going deep undercover in a recon mission to discover who these science policy professionals are, what they believe, and what they're doing. And of course, we'll be infiltrating transhumanist views into the highest levels of government.

No other information for now, but brace yourself for a We Alone on Earth special feature starting Jan 18, 2010.


Political Science Fiction

New York Times columnist David Brooks posted a provocative column on American futurism, optimism, and innovation. He proposes that the quality that makes America unique is an "Eschatological faith in the [that] future has motivated generations of Americans, just as religious faith motivates a missionary." But right now due to the sad state of politics, we have lost that faith in the future, that trust in technological progress has moved to China. What we need is a leader (Obama) who can create a national vision of the future, exciting our country to again lead the world.

I agree with Brooks; Americans no longer believe in the future, pessimism and catastrophe are the modern ideologies, and they are poisoning our future. However, the politics of the conventional will not be enough to make this change. We need visionary drive, and Brooks forgets our current visionaries and futurists: science fiction authors. Sci-fi needs to move out of the nerd ghetto, and become part of the national discourse.

Laying out this vision is the hardest challenge that President Obama faces. Even his astounding rhetorical skills may not be up to the task. But if he is going to be that transformative leader that America so desperately needs, he must articulate a national mission. More-so than health care, Afghanistan, and the economy, we have to restore the national engagement with the future


Circuit Etching Test

Using some variant of the instructions found here, I was able to etch a small 1"x1" test board.

Current problems : surprisingly few. [1] OpenOffice, which I used to draw the design, does not scale correctly when printing. Much searching on the internet did not resolve this problem, and ultimately I guessed as to the correct scale at which to draw the design. Suggestions for a better free drawing program would be welcome. [2] There was a 1mm misalignment between the two board sides. This makes through hole mounting.. tricky to impossible ? I will have to try harder next time. [3] I do not have a drill press, and Home Depot does not sell bits small enough to drill out PCB holes. I will simply use only surface mount designs in the future, to avoid this problem. [4] I do not know how to reliably get good close-up shots with my cheap digital camera.

Significant deviations/simplifications/shortcuts from the internet instructions : [1] I did not prepare the board with acetone beforehand, I scrubbed it a bit with steel wool. [2] I did not have to soak the board particularly long to remove the paper. I simply left the board in warm water for a few seconds then slowly peeled off the transfer paper in one piece. This created a nearly perfect mask. [3] I did not have to heat or agitate the etching solution, I just ignored it for twenty minutes. [4] I removed the mask with a q-tip and acetone, no abrasion.

Update : I tried some surface mount style soldering practice on the board

Since drilling holes is a major nuisance, I decided to try soldering an IC directly on the surface. I cut about 1/2 the leads off and bent them inward. I then tinned both the pads on the board and the leads. Connecting the chip was then as simple as briefly touching the joint to melt the two pools of solder together. The chip ( a hex inverter ) still works despite using no anti-static precautions, no heat sink while soldering, and hooking it up to twice the operating voltage backwards. Surface mount soldering of 0.1" pitch components turns out to be fairly easy, so I see no reason not to use surface mount design in the future. Soldering of smaller surface mount components appears to take a bit of cleverness.