DON’T DO THIS! …unless you have a filtered solar telescope, as used by Joe here.

Tinkering Thursday: 11th December

In the photograph above, Joe is pointing a telescope at the sun. Two things about this are remarkable:

  1. It’s December, we’re in Newcastle, and we actually saw the sun today.
  2. Joe can still see.

We all know – obviously – that looking at the sun through telescopes, binoculars, even cameras is, in general, a really really bad idea. But let’s be clear, just in case this is news to you:

Looking at the sun through a telescope, pair of binoculars, or indeed any sort of optical instrument is a really, really bad idea. You’re quite likely to blind yourself.

Don’t do it.

…unless you have a solar telescope. Oh heck yes, we have one of those. It has a very, very precise and very, very dark filter, and through it the sun looks like this:

The sun’s disc, with a little cloud, as seen through the solar telescope. December 11th 2014.

The sun’s disc, with a little cloud, as seen through the solar telescope. December 11th 2014.

So that was fun. We’ve some work to do getting the best performance out of the solar telescope, but the good news is that we’ve managed to extract the weird bits of material that were floating around in the eyepiece, so the whole thing doesn’t have to go back to the manufacturers. In California. Phew.

Back in Think Lab, we continued Tinkering Thursday with Joe making rather more smoke than he’d intended. He was attempting to make a lightbulb from scratch, but since we haven’t yet worked out how to isolate the smoke detectors in the Lab, we packed that in sharpish. We’ll come back to it.

Our attention turned, therefore, to the more careful (and less combustible) pursuit that is trigonometry. There is, it turns out, good reason you learn sines, cosines, and (in this case) inverse tangents in school: so you can make adorable little robots draw not-quite-lined-up Christmas trees:

This sort of thing makes us happy. If you look closely you might catch a glimpse of some extremely rough-looking code – the main output of the afternoon was, perhaps, a bug report filed with the lovely Mirobot team. We continue to be big fans of our dinky little robot friend, and as the software settles down it’s proving even more capable than we’d hoped.

More Tinkering next Thursday!

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