Archive for November, 2010

DIY Spectro

UPDATE: There is a newer, more automated version of this project here, and an FAQ section here.

For the last while I have been concentrating on a project: developing an easily built spectrophotometer for low budget and DIY laboratories.

At the subatomic level, light is made up of entities called photons. Photons are electromagnetic vibrations; the speed at which they vibrate (in vibrations per second) determines the color of the light. Red light has a relatively slow vibrational frequency, while purple light has a faster one. The frequency also determines the energy that the the photon has: the faster a photon vibrates, the more energy it has. A photon of violet light has more energy than a photon of red light.

White light, like that from a halogen lamp, contains photons of a lot of different frequencies. However, you can use a prism or a diffraction grating to break that light up into its component colors, to get the familiar rainbow:


The spectrum of a halogen lamp

The above image is from a spectroscope I built during development. It’s made from bamboo, duct tape, pieces of beer cans, and an old CD: the perfect combination of steampunk, cyberpunk, and drunkpunk.


I did this spectroscope myself.

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A part of my John Everett series – read more: 0/I - II.0 - II.5 - II.75 -  III.0 - III.3 - IV.0 - IV.4 - IV.8 - V - VII - VIII - Full Report 

Often, in order to explain why a particular Weird Belief is correct despite being at odds with available evidence, the belief holder will invoke conspiracy theories. Young Earth Creationists often invoke a conspiracy by god and/or satan to make the earth look much older than it actually is. Intelligent Design Creationists allege an academic conspiracy to suppress ID research. Climate change skuptiks see conspiracies to falsify data the way I see faces in clouds. It’s not necessarily that conspiracies don’t exist- but because the point of a conspiracy is to mask its own existence, we have to be very careful in deciding which conspiracy theories are justified and which aren’t.

Dr. Everett doesn’t invoke a conspiracy in the classical sense of a bunch of men in suits, smoking cigars in a dimly lit room. But he does seem to invoke a distributed, systemic conspiracy, in which science as a system has been corrupted, and its results can not be trusted. He does this in order to cast doubt on studies of the effects of acidification on calcifiers:

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A part of my John Everett series – read more: 0/I - II.0 - II.5 - II.75 -  III.0 - III.3 - IV.0 - IV.4 - IV.8 - V - VII - VIII - Full Report 

Coccoliths: microscopic death stars of the ocean. Via Wikimedia Commons

Have you ever gone camping with someone who doesn’t know how to build a fire? It might go something like this: you get a pile of twigs burning, and immediately your friend starts piling on huge logs. The fire dwindles. “Hey,” your friend says, “This fire sucks. It must need more logs.” If some fuel is good, then more must be better. It’s a terrible way to roast marshmallows. And yet it’s the philosophy that Dr. Everett applies to the effects of increased carbon dioxide on life.

Here’s an example from part I of his testimony:

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