Build, then rebuild
Any good idea really begins life as an okay idea. No matter how brilliant the idea, it’s not fully formed, so it’s imperfect. It’s that imperfect nature that makes it seem perfect. You don’t have to look close at the details. It’s what comes later, the taking a blob of an idea and shaping it into something physical, something real, that the idea goes from being okay to being great. Any realized idea in my opinion is a great idea, because you put the work into making it exist and that alone is worth something.
Yesterday (here) I wrote about how I was taking a set of ideas I had and turning them into something real. I like to live under the idea that if you can dream it, you can build it. Anything you could imagine, if you can imagine it, there’s a way to make it. You may not have the tools, the skills, the equipment, or even the knowledge to bring it into the world, but that doesn’t preclude it from existing. I’m looking at you flying cars, although to be fair with how people drive flying cars would probably be a disaster of epic proportions.
Seriously, even the most impossible idea could be made possible if you had the right equipment. Think about it, time travel, hoverboards, teleportation, sure some of these things are harder than others, I mean you can travel in time if you can somehow find negative mass, but what I’m saying is that if you had everything you needed to make them, you could do it and I think that’s a beautiful thing. There’s a bit of magic there that I think we, as (mostly) adults tend to overlook.
Maybe that’s why I like making things so much, it really does feel like magic some days. There’s also a bit of a puzzle in there too. Which is half the fun to solve. You have to get things aligned properly and they all need to fit together and work correctly. Even when I’m writing a bit of code, you have to make sure every step works as expected as you’re writing it. I wouldn’t exactly call it a game, or even fun (although it can be), but there is something satisfying seeing something like that work when you’re finished.
Today I started building out the newest lab equipment I’ve decided to make. I’ve pitched the idea to hospital-PI and he’s onboard with it, funded by his blessing of course until we get a grant for the work. But there’s been a lot of hurry up and wait on that end as the equipment we needed took time to arrive and after I got some of the parts, we discovered that we got the wrong thing (my poor fancy cables…).
But as of yesterday we had all the equipment and I’ve been hard at work making it happen.
It’s been a struggle of a day. Which is why this post is coming so very late. I’ve never had to do such fine solder work and the equipment I have isn’t, shall we say conducive, to making the equipment building easier. I don’t think I can get better equipment and after looking into it I highly suspect that they do not make anything better (using the soldering iron we have that is), so I’m stuck with what I’ve got, but I’m making it work. It’s still a struggle though.
Mostly I need to keep wires from touching that really want to touch. I’m soldering wires on a through hole on a PCB and of course when you apply heat to solder, the plastic surrounding the wire tends to melt so you end up with exposed wire. I have to solder a high number of wires in a very tiny space. So tiny in fact that I ran into a problem right away as I got started.
Wire has what’s called a gauge, but that’s just a fancy way to designate thickness. I didn’t anticipate this, but my already high gauge wire (higher is thinner, confusing I know) was too thick to fit into the hole on the PCB. Oops, chalk that up to things you don’t think about when you’re designing. Luckily I had some slightly higher gauged wire, 28 instead of 26, which just barely fits. The unfortunate part is that it’s stranded wire and not solid. Stranded wire is great because it’s super flexible, but it’s a bunch of very tiny wires making up a very tiny wire, so as I try to feed it through the hole, wires tend to not want to go through.
I’ve mostly managed it fine, which is the only good news I have on that front. The holes are sitting maybe 2 mm apart, I doubt it’s 3mm and there are a lot of them. So far things are going somewhat smoothly. The issue now is that the wires are exposed slightly and I’m worried they will touch if I’m not careful, so I’m planning on coating them with some liquid electrical tape when it’s all finished. It’s not a perfect solution and it will make the whole thing look ugly, but no one but me will know about it so I’m just not going to think about how ugly it will look and just be happy it works (assuming it works… please work).
Of course this is the first time I’m doing this so there’s a learning curve. I had several things I wish I could’ve changed if I had another chance to do it (I may have to make several of this particular part, so there may be other times). I could in theory scrap it and make another one, but I want to see this one to the end to see what else I can learn from it. Besides if it works well, then it was a success.
I’ve already had to take it all apart and try to build it again. Originally I (stupidly, I don’t know what I was thinking) tried to reuse one of the wires I had removed, soldered a small portion of the old wire to the end of my new fancy cable and use it that way. I quickly scrapped that to use a smaller gauge version despite not being quite as good as the original wire, I think it’s a much better solution. Plus keeping it simple means I’m less likely to run into problems.
Currently the bare minimum of construction for next week is one (ideally two) of the parts I’m currently working on, three of a different part, and possibly one of a third part. I know, cryptic, but that’s the best I can do for now. I’ve gotten a little over half of the first part soldered, so it’s slow going. I’m hoping to get this first part made tomorrow. If I can get it 100% finished, then I’ll be in a good position to start making the other parts.
I have it organized by level of difficulty, with the stuff I’m working on now being the hardest thing(s) I will have to make. So if I can get this done somewhat quickly, the rest of it should go fast. Of course, that’s the plan and as we’ve seen *waves vaguely at my entire blog,* that isn’t always the case. I’m hoping to update tomorrow and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it will be good news. We’ll have to see though.
I think I agree that even a weak implemented idea is better than the greatest idea that never gets realized. I’ve seen a few too many AI hobbyists walk into the room with a theory and think they’ve solved it all – when it’s probably just the beginning of what they need, and if they made a serious implementation effort, they’d quickly figure that out. Instead they wonder why everyone isn’t falling down in awe and hailing them as the person who will complete AI.
This all sounds rough, but I trust you’ll be able to get a working final product. And I may have to look into this “liquid electrical tape” stuff. I seriously had not heard of that before.
If we had negative mass, which time travel paradox resolution do you think we’d end up with?
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September 8, 2022 at 10:25 pm
Yeah I agree, we see that a lot in the brain-computer interface side of things too. People tend to be overconfident that the idea they have is the solution to everything and maybe it is, but the road from idea to realization is long and difficult.
Well I finished soldering one part and yeah basically covered it in liquid electrical tape, it’s good stuff, but it’s messy. I use it on occasion when I forget to put a piece of heat shrink tubing on a wire before I solder (tell me you’ve never forgot! haha). I don’t know the life of it, but I’ve never had it fall apart after using it, so that’s a plus.
OOOH! I question! Okay, so this is all theoretical, blah, blah, blah, I don’t have a total understanding of the physics, but…
I like the quantum mechanics interpretation of the universe, where it breaks off at every decision (multi-world theory basically). So everything that can happen, does.
What’s interesting about this way of thinking is, imagine I travel back in time and kill my grandfather. I still exist, so I jump to the present and poof nothing has changed. Why? Because my atoms are entangled with my particular universes timeline so nothing I do matters to my timeline specifically because the splits that lead to this universe have already played out and I can’t exactly jump timelines because I don’t have a way to jump universes, I “only” have a time machine.
I’m sure there’s a physicist out there who is rolling their eyes at this idea, but it’s still fun to think of it that way. I mean we like to think of time as a river, but maybe it’s more like an ocean.
What about you? I’m curious to hear what your thoughts are on it!
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September 9, 2022 at 5:00 pm
When you mentioned the liquid electrical tape, almost the first thing through my head was “oh that would come in handy if I forgot the heat shrink.” That, uh, might’ve happened.
I think my favorite concept of time travel is one in which causality somehow protects itself – I could call it “Harry Potter time travel” since that’s the only story I can remember seeing it in. You can travel to the past, and you can affect things there – but only things that don’t change results you’ve already observed. So for example: if Schrodinger’s Cat is in the box and you don’t know whether he’s alive or dead, you can go back in time and disable the kill device, thereby guaranteeing that he was alive all along. But if you’ve opened the box and seen the cat dead, that’s it. You can still go back to a time when he was alive, but any attempts to prevent his death will inevitably fail.
This is the one I like, but I’m not sure how plausible it is. It seems to make things very subjective to each observer, but quantum mechanics has that problem in general. The part that bothers me more is, what would enforce it? If you tried to do anything that would violate the rules, what would stop you? Would you run into invisible walls, feel mechanical resistance every time you started doing something wrong? Turn into a “ghost” that can’t interact with, or be perceived by, anything off limits? The needed solutions might have to be arbitrarily complex, and since we’re used to looking for physical laws that are simple or elegant, this approach starts to feel a little silly or contrived.
The many-worlds option, depending on the details, can be philosophically disturbing to me. If literally everything that could happen, did happen … wouldn’t that negate our choices? Any time I made a good decision, I’d be condemning my counterparts in several adjacent universes to pick all of the alternate bad options. No matter how hard I strove to improve the world, I wouldn’t actually be improving it, just moving to a nicer place in the time ocean. Innumerable copies of me would have to go through all the suffering I thought I was avoiding. And I’m not more important than they are, so … what would be the use? Hope I didn’t ruin your fun with that, but that’s why this one makes me nervous.
Of course that’s not an argument for the physical impossibility of the thing; me not liking it doesn’t mean it can’t be true. But many-worlds isn’t the only interpretation of quantum mechanics that could be valid, so … I can at least hope it’s the wrong one.
On the other hand, if the universe only splits when an individual wave function collapses … those events don’t usually affect the macro world much, and how much they can influence even our brains is debatable. If the only difference between our universe and most others is that some particles in a two-slit experiment went through the left slit instead of the right, I could live with that. Or if the timeline only forks when someone travels back in time and does something that would otherwise violate causality, I could live with that too.
Phew. Thanks for answering and for asking me back, I hope you enjoy the text wall.
September 10, 2022 at 12:17 am
Haha! I’m sure the inventor of liquid electrical tape probably thought the same thing!
I like your idea! I recently read a book, “Scharlette doesn’t matter and goes time traveling,” that uses a similar methodology for time travel where they run into something called p-limits which are described as sometimes physical manifestations of things that prevent you from doing a very specific thing that could change the future. They do it in different ways (instant death for example), but the idea is to avoid them when you see them. It’s an interesting take on time travel! But in the book the outcomes of the future can be changed even if witnessed, so it’s not identical to your description (just the part about the mysterious hand preventing actual change).
I can see why the many worlds interpretation may be more horror story than fun time travel adventure. Forking when time traveling would be an interesting take.
I wonder if we’ll ever actually invent time travel? Maybe the reason we haven’t seen any time travelers is that the machine can’t go back further than when it’s created, so more of a time portal than time machine.
Anyway thanks for taking the time to write all that out! It was a lot of fun reading. I always love discussions like this! I hope you’re enjoying the weekend.
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September 10, 2022 at 10:28 am
Oh I love these kinds of talks too. It’s been a little while since I had a good one.
I haven’t done much with the weekend yet except read the internet and have a late-morning doze, but I am enjoying it. I hope I’ll be more productive later haha.
I might have to try that book. I need more literature that does interesting things with time travel.
September 10, 2022 at 10:54 am