Citizen Science Hack Chat

[Ben Krasnow] Hosts a Hack Chat

Wednesday, April 29, 2020 12:00 pm PDT Local time zone:
Hack Chat
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Ben Krasnow will host the Hack Chat on Wednesday, April 29, 2020 at noon Pacific Time.

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Join Hack ChatFor most of human history, there was no such thing as a professional scientist. Those who dabbled in "natural philosophy" were mainly men -- and occasionally women -- of privilege and means, given to spend their time looking into the workings of the world. Most went where their interest lay, exploring this facet of geology or that aspect of astronomy, often combining disciplines or switching to new ones as they felt like it. They had the freedom to explore the universe without the pressure to "publish or perish," and yet they still often managed to pull back the curtain of ignorance and superstition that veiled the world for eons, at least somewhat.

In their footsteps follow today's citizen scientists, a relatively small cohort compared to the great numbers of professional scientists that universities churn out year after year. But where these credentialed practitioners are often hyper-focused on a particular sub-field in a highly specialized discipline, the citizen scientist enjoys more freedom to explore the universe, as his or her natural philosopher forebears did. These citizen scientists -- many of whom are also traditionally credentialed -- are doing important work, and some are even publishing their findings in mainstream journals.

Ben Krasnow, proprietor of the Applied Science YouTube channel, is one such citizen scientist, and one whose latest findings are always welcome. We've covered tons of Ben's experiments and builds, from his DIY electron microscope to his steel-piercing ruby laser, and more recently his home-brew mass spectrometer or his investigation into MRI-induced iPhone deaths. There's always something interesting coming out of Ben's lab, and he'll drop by the Hack Chat to discuss the state of citizen science today and what's going on in the lab.

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 3

    Lutetium04/29/2020 at 20:14 0 comments

    Kendall Meade12:46 PM

    Peter Bosch12:46 PM
    if you mind your safety precautions, you can do quite alot safely. for example: me and some people at the local hackerspace made RFNA for decapping chips, which would be pretty dangerous if we hadn't thought out containment,PPE and waste handling

    Christian12:46 PM
    I'v read a bit into x-ray safety a while ago. correct me if I'm wrong but shielding and distance is key. And it's surprising how little shielding small sources such as a dental xray actually need

    Mike Kennedy12:46 PM
    yeah... i think the felling is mutual..

    Kenji Larsen12:46 PM
    @Ben Krasnow do you still have that DeLorean, and if so isn't it time to do a project with it? Alternate power source, self driving AI, or ?

    krux12:46 PM
    @Ben Krasnow I see the projects you work on that make it to your channel.. and I know how I'm like with projects. I can hardly imagine the quantity of things you have on the future to do or back burner list.

    Christian12:47 PM
    Mr Fusion!!

    Kendall Meade12:47 PM
    you know, thinking about it, so many people have this problem

    Kendall Meade12:47 PM
    I wonder about the actual logistics of a waste management project

    Ben Krasnow12:47 PM
    Noel, for both my day job and Applied Science stuff, I like to keep things in my head. I don't do much external tracking with tools.

    krux12:47 PM
    For every completed thing, there's probably a dozen in various states of being done, started, not started but researched, etc..

    Kendall Meade12:47 PM
    maybe somethhing like those mycology things where they grow oyster mushrooms off oil spills

    morgan12:48 PM
    @Ben Krasnow you do a lot of hand written notes as yo ugo?

    Kendall Meade12:48 PM
    and then use that as fertilizer since it's not really good for human consumption but it's ok at 3-4rth hand to get those calories from oil

    alexwhittemore12:48 PM

    alexwhittemore12:48 PM

    Mike Kennedy12:48 PM
    Ben: What do you find interesting from DIY the community? the different projects that people make? Are Art projects interesting to you you?

    Spencer Lund12:48 PM
    Ben, what do you see as the next steps to work on to get the plating to produce a more usable product? Do you think it's largely recipe tweaking, or more post-processing, or just unknown?

    Lightning Phil12:48 PM
    @Christian yes, they're helpful. But generating as little as possible and checking the shielding work are important too. Would advise buying an x-ray sensor before making x-rays.

    krux12:49 PM

    Ben Krasnow12:49 PM
    Krux, it's true! Some things never make it to the channel. But since I was shorter on time since starting at Verily, I try to "economize" such that most of my work on evenings gets put into a video (eventually) --- sometimes takes years.

    Christian12:49 PM
    I agree with that!

    Kendall Meade12:49 PM
    @Ben Krasnow for the sake of getting these thoughts out of your head I highly recommend David Allen's "Getting Things Done" information management algorithm, basically his whole book could be summed up in the flowchart graphic, you can pair that with something like evernote as a way to keep your 'reference' materials text searchable, and it works as a repository you can put any sort of media to

    Applied Procrastination12:50 PM
    My final micrometeorite plug is the facebook page of OG-micrometeorite hunter Jon Larsen in case anyone wants to see what these things look like: There are tons of high quality photographs in there

    Ben Krasnow12:50 PM
    Mike, I think the most important thing in the DIY community, is building a sense of agency and control over a person's environment and life. It's a while mindset of positivity that the early years of Make magazine captured well.

    Kendall Meade12:50 PM
    particularly good if you use a 'web clipper' extension to save pages (articles, news stories, etc) directly to your evernote repository

    Kendall Meade12:51 PM
    makes every cool reddit find permanently text searchable if you use it, the trick is to use it, lol


    Read more »

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 2

    Lutetium04/29/2020 at 20:12 0 comments

    alexwhittemore12:25 PM
    @Abhishek Viswanathan this seems to fit neatly along those lines:

    Mark VandeWettering12:26 PM
    Ben: Kind of shocked you haven't heard of them. Very cool series, more for teaching you _how_ to build machine tools, with the side affect of, well, building machine tools. It's hard to argue that for most of us it is a cost effective way to equip a shop, but it's a great set of skill building projects.

    Applied Procrastination12:26 PM
    I'll continue my monologue about micrometeorites for a little longer. Because one of the problems for citizen scientists in the field is to definitively prove that you have actually found something extraterrestrial. With Larsen's method you can learn how to find stuff and be pretty certain, but to be really sure you need an electron microscope and more importantly an electron microPROBE ( It's similar to an electron microscope but uses Bragg diffraction to identify the constituent materials of the object being irradiated. Since you've built your own SEM, @Ben Krasnow, I'm really curious to hear if you've ever attempted or considering making a microprobe like that.

    me12:26 PM
    I want to do and but understand others have had legal problems. I guess it's not hardware hacking really.

    zacchaeus liang12:27 PM
    how would you collect them?

    Sam Zeloof12:27 PM
    @alexwhittemore nothing too bad, have to write a reflection essay, formal warning, etc... I think having it associated with that lab might have been worse actually because I've already been politely *corrected* for having some chemicals and things in there

    Peter Bosch12:27 PM
    @Ben Krasnow For your diy SEM, did you have any issues with the outgassing of the materials you used?

    Kendall Meade12:27 PM
    gingery home workshop, informed by developments since then like cheap graphite for air bearings and cheap industrialized flat granite for reference surfaces, means more people could do the dan-gelbart micron-accurate grinders too Mark VandeWettering

    Mike Kennedy12:27 PM
    Ben: When you have done your difference project, did you have a plan for the different equipment needed? For example the SEM, and the sputtering project..

    Christian12:27 PM
    @me ah I thought you only meant hardware as in electronics

    Dan Maloney12:28 PM
    FYI, I'll be posting a transcript of the chat directly afterward, in case anyone misses a link or something.

    Mike Kennedy12:28 PM
    For example did you plan ahead the need?

    Mark VandeWettering12:28 PM
    Kendall I'll be googling for those improvements :-)

    Kendall Meade12:28 PM
    for reference

    dennis1a4 joined  the room.12:28 PM

    Ben Krasnow12:28 PM
    Peter, yes! I originally used acrylic (PMMA) parts, it was too much. I could tell the parts were outgassing since the pressure would go up, the more parts I put into the chamber. I switched to PTFE, which was much better, and luckily mechanically good enough for what I was doing.

    Peter Bosch12:29 PM
    And the metal? what was the base plate made of?

    alexwhittemore12:29 PM
    @Sam Zeloof Reflection essay thesis: "Ultimately this experience has shown me that my decisions were largely optimal given the scenario, and others would not have achieved goals as effectively" :)

    Ben Krasnow12:29 PM
    Aluminum. I've never had problems with metal choices in the realm of vaccum that I need.

    Sam Zeloof12:30 PM
    @alexwhittemore haha perfect, thank you

    Kendall Meade12:30 PM
    I haven't worked with vacuum but I have heard that epoxy resins particularly have a problem of off-gassing

    Peter Bosch12:30 PM
    seeing as I'm looking to start some high vacuum experiments of my own when the lockdown is over, and I've just been hearing a lot of conflicting stuff about aluminum being usable or not

    Sam Zeloof12:30 PM
    @Ben Krasnow how did the spark plug feedthroughs work for you? were they sealed with a crushable metal gasket or o-ring? seems like...

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  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 1

    Lutetium04/29/2020 at 20:06 0 comments

    Dan Maloney12:00 PM
    OK everyone, let's get started. We're excited to have Ben Krasnow on the Hack Chat today. Welcome Ben!

    Ben Krasnow12:00 PM

    Mike Kennedy12:01 PM

    Kendall Meade12:01 PM
    how's it going :D

    Boian Mitov12:01 PM
    Hello everyone :-)

    krux12:01 PM
    Hey hey

    Dan Maloney12:01 PM
    I think everyone knows you pretty well, but maybe you could give us a little about yourself?

    Spencer Lund joined  the room.12:01 PM

    Applied Procrastination12:02 PM
    Hi, Ben! Good to see you

    Ben Krasnow12:03 PM
    Sure. I work at Verily (Google Life Sciences) doing hardware prototyping. The goal is to make devices that detect disease earlier in progression when it is often cheaper and easier to treat. I also host the Applied Science channel on YouTube, where I show interesting and practical applications of scientific principles. Thanks for having me on the chat.

    apfelbroog joined  the room.12:03 PM

    Kendall Meade12:03 PM
    dude thanks for being here :D

    Applied Procrastination12:03 PM
    Thanks for being here

    zacchaeus liang joined  the room.12:03 PM

    Ahron Wayne12:03 PM
    Hi Ben!!

    Kendall Meade12:03 PM
    so, WHAT ABOUT hydrogen blimp quad drones, lol

    matt5walston joined  the room.12:04 PM

    Leonas joined  the room.12:04 PM

    Mike Kennedy12:04 PM
    Are you currently working on anything for the Covid-19? or you can;t say...

    zacchaeus liang12:04 PM
    hi ben your my hero!

    zacchaeus liang12:04 PM
    always love seeing your videos and thought process!

    Ben Krasnow12:04 PM
    I have mostly been focused on early cancer detection projects.

    Mike Kennedy12:05 PM
    ah .

    apfelbroog12:05 PM
    nanotech stuff?

    Kendall Meade12:05 PM
    hang on, are you one of the guys using radar as a medical imaging technology?

    Kendall Meade12:05 PM
    is this the right language

    Jeff Verive joined  the room.12:06 PM

    Ben Krasnow12:06 PM
    As it turns out, in order for cancer cells to continue their rapid growth, they end up burning fuel in a less efficient way that creates literal dirty exhaust in the blood stream. Detecting trace amounts of this would be a very good way to search for latent cancers.

    logan.rooper joined  the room.12:06 PM

    Ahron Wayne12:06 PM
    Ben, can I ask you to take a look at a few seconds of this video? It's a droplet of water on a film of carbon black, which you can make by just putting a candle underneath a glass slide. It has some really interested properties that reminded me of your graphite air bearing

    Abhishek Viswanathan12:06 PM
    In your experience, what have you found as a significant stumbling block for people to start or sustain a local-scale citizen science project?

    morgan12:07 PM
    woo, back! Hi ben!

    DrG12:07 PM
    Are you working on any sensors for detection of alkanes and aromatic compounds generated by malignant tumors.....from the canine reports?

    me joined  the room.12:08 PM

    singularengineer12:08 PM
    What are these 'dirty exhaust' exhaust you are looking for and how do you detect them?

    pe1cmp joined  the room.12:08 PM

    apfelbroog12:09 PM
    regarding applied science, given 1000 different interests, how do you manage to finish any darn project? Any tips?

    Mike Kennedy12:09 PM
    And does this method work for all types of cancers?

    Ben Krasnow12:09 PM
    I think a very common stumbling block for any type of project is building consensus of setting goals. For market-driven companies, it's a little more clear because customers ultimately decide with their wallet. For efforts that are not pushed by consumerism, it becomes more difficult to assess if a goal is being met.

    Ben Krasnow12:09 PM
    DrG, yes along those lines!

    me12:09 PM
    Is your laboratory at your residence? If so, have there been any zoning law problems?

    morgan12:10 PM
    heh, or fed visits...

    Lightning Phil12:10 PM
    Wish my garage was tidier (and a lot bigger), would be awesome to have a similar setup

    Shiz joined  the room.12:11 PM

    Ben Krasnow12:11 PM
    Ahron, that's cool!

    Kendall Meade12:11 PM
    lightning phil just start with tidying the garage up and fitting...

    Read more »

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