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Amateur Science

By driftingwalrus in MLP
Wed Nov 15, 2000 at 07:19:52 PM EST
Tags: Science (all tags)

I've always been interested in amateur science, and find it hard to find good info. Here's a particularily good site:

Bill Beaty's Homepage

See below for some more.

There is, of course, the usual tesla coil pages:

Chip Atkinson's mailing list on tesla coils, Resonance Research is great for pics of a multi-gigawatt Marx generator.

For those following the Farnsworth fusor(or have no idea what it is), this page has some good basic info.

An interesting question I've been wondering about is are there many in the geek community who are also amateur scientists? You never see much coverage of amateur science related topics on geek sites, science always seems to be a more peripheral interest. What are everyone elses favourite amateur science resources? (not kitchen-counter baking soda and vinegar amateur science, but homebuilt cyclotrons, fusors, organic chemistry, etc.)


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Amateur science is....
o Fascinating, my favourite hobby next to computers 10%
o Very interesting 38%
o Kind of neat, but never really caught my interest 34%
o Totally and completely uninteresting 5%
o Another way for the aliens to control our thoughts 10%

Votes: 55
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Bill Beaty's Homepage
o Chip Atkinson's
o Resonance Research
o page
o Also by driftingwalrus

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Amateur Science | 6 comments (6 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
Mindwire.org (3.80 / 5) (#1)
by sugarman on Wed Nov 15, 2000 at 05:14:02 PM EST

For science news, I generally take a peek at Mindwire

Other than that, just take a look at the /. quickies when the come up, for the guy who turned his Vic-20 into a cellphone, or used a salvaged A/C from an '83 Cutlass Supreme to supercool his Celeron 433 and OC it to 1.2G. *grins*

Bookmark the weird stuff when it pops up, and then exhaust those links. Weird home made tech is self-replicating. Once someone sees it done, everyone thinks they can do it. That's half the fun. =)

sciquest.com and eurekalert.org (1.00 / 1) (#3)
by sayke on Wed Nov 15, 2000 at 06:41:47 PM EST

they cover more then enough for me.

sayke, v2.3.1 /* i am the middle finger of the invisible hand */
[ Parent ]

Wierd Science (3.28 / 7) (#2)
by Signal 11 on Wed Nov 15, 2000 at 06:29:07 PM EST

Most geeks by nature are curious about science. To be more precise, they are interested in the results of science. Tesla coils, quad processor boxes with 3GB of RAM, RAID arrays the size of washing machines, beowulf clusters, the public phone network, aerospace technology, and of course... cool hacks that you do yourself.

Geeks in general are facinated by science, but not just for science' sake, but rather what science can do for them. Owning a quad processor box would mean nothing if you couldn't do something with it. Geeks are more likely to go through the pain and suffering of learning higher math (I'm talking atleast calculus here) and slave away at their engineering degrees for one simple reason: we can build cool toys after.

So yes, interest in science runs high for geeks. But we're not the stereotypical white-labcoat-and-beakers kind of scientists. Our bread and butter consists of going down to home depot over the weekend and buying a whole lot of very wierd things, disassembling them, and building frankenstein in the garage... or assembling monster systems that will have joe average's mouth still dropping to the floor a year from now. Rather than dwell on silly papers, we roll up our sleeves and get down and dirty with hardware.

There are a few of us out here that stay under the radar. A few of us (well, okay, ALOT of us) had bad experiences with authority/school and people not understanding why we stay up at 3am building wierd contraptions in our basement, or toiling away on endless if-else statements. People are afraid of the voodoo magic that we use on a day to day basis, whether it be electronics, chemistry, physics, programming, computers, or a plethora of other fields.

We build some VERY cool stuff - you read about it all the time - kid genius builds laser tracking system. True story - high school girl (pretty sure it was a girl) laid out the groundwork for a laser guidance system - previously thought impossible to be used as a replacement for RADAR. Her high school teacher flunked her, but the DoD found out about it, and viola, today we have laser tracking systems on most all of our modern craft. It's common out here - there is a thriving network of amateur engineers and scientists out here... we just don't publish journals and papers. Instead, we hang out on web sites and listservs and exchange e-mail. Out of sight, out of mind... and more importantly: free to continue hacking.

Maybe that's also why some of us resent conventional academia - it's too slow, for one, and for two despite the proclaimed liberal nature of colleges, alot of them are close-minded. Some of the most bitter conflicts in science have revolved around somebody up-rooting a long-established idea and replacing it with something better. I don't want any part of that. Alot of my friends don't either. We prefer to build something, and let the community evaluate it... instead of a select group of professors or some committee. Science is about peer review, not who has the bigger dick or the most influence.

I have a better question out there for some of you - how many of you became disillusioned with science because your teacher wasn't interested in actually teaching you, but rather just filling your head with facts in high school? Or in college where a professor refused to be questioned in class, or wouldn't allow you to deviate from The Book(tm)?

Science is damned fun, it is damned interesting, and I wish those other self-proclaimed scientists would move out of the way and let us have some fun and maybe change the world while we're at it. If there was one thing I would attribute to the waning interest in science both by the general public and by intelligent folk like geeks, it would be the politics behind our scientific institutions.

Just my $0.02.

Society needs therapy. It's having
trouble accepting itself.

Amateur columns in scientific journals (3.00 / 1) (#4)
by kaboom on Wed Nov 15, 2000 at 07:18:15 PM EST

If you're really into amateur science, at least the Trends journals (Trends in Genetics, Trends in Biochemistry, etc.) have an amateur science column. It's fascinating reading for people like me (I'm a human geneticist) to see the efforts people make to be able to do things like gel electrophoresis at home using a pencil for an electrode, and similarly wacky-but-they-work bargain-basement approaches....

Laser Stuff (4.00 / 1) (#5)
by Pope Slack on Thu Nov 16, 2000 at 02:57:40 PM EST

Sam's Laser FAQ is worth a look.
/Tons/ of info on various laser types, from CO2 to Argon-Ion and more.
Definately worth a look if you're thinking that building a
"Lay-zer" that goes a bit beyond the usual pointer might be fun... ;)


Amateur Science (4.00 / 1) (#6)
by z on Thu Nov 16, 2000 at 04:40:23 PM EST

The idea of doing amateur science has occurred to me, but I have never done anything significant. I was in high school before the era of the PC, so, being a nerd, got into amateur radio. Amateur radio is more engineering than science. But you're working with real radios, not just toys. Working with radios and Teletypes in high school evolved into skills useful for computer work.

The problem with doing amateur science is finding a field where you can make real contributions, rather than just play with neat toys. Astronomy is one area where it is done. Some of these comets that come by are named after people who just spend a lot of time in their back yard looking through a telescope.

I have gone on Earthwatch expeditions. This gives an amateur scientist a chance to spend a couple of weeks working on a real science project. Usually we're just helpers and don't spend enough time on the project to publish papers on it, but we do see the results and may get an acknowledgement.

I think that if one were interesting enough, it would be possible to do some real amateur science. Doing something in particle physics, which requires billion dollar accelerators might be a problem, but there should be something in ecology, life sciences, meteorology, etc. But I am speculating. We want to hear from people who have done it.

Amateur Science | 6 comments (6 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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