We're a little crazy, about science!

A completed part!

Ideas are perfect, but the first time you realize that idea it’s often a mess. It’s still an amazing thing that didn’t exist, but it’s never as perfect as in your imagination. You have all the parts, everything fits just the way you want, and it works exactly how you expect it to work, until it becomes a reality. Then it just becomes painful.

Turning an idea into a reality is a lot like giving birth. It’s a violent process and I mean that literally. It’s painful, it never goes according to plan, and it can oftentimes be dangerous. We all come into the world screaming for a reason (frankly, why we stop screaming is anyone’s guess). I’ve been talking about the idea to reality pipeline a lot these past few days because of that very reason. It’s hard, it’s literal blood, sweat, and tears before you get what you want and when you arrive at something reasonably fashioned you’ve learned all the ways you could’ve done it better, so you scrap it and start again.

Today I’m happy to write that I’ve finished the first and most difficult build. I’ve learned all the ways I could’ve done it better, but for now it appears the first iteration is done. I’ll have to do some final checks on Monday because I’m paranoid like that, but overall we have a finished product. Okay, the first generation of a finished product and one piece of many that need to be fabricated.

With the experiments that this equipment will be used for fast approaching, I still have a lot of work to do between now and next Friday, but I’m happy with the result so far. Because this piece in particular was so challenging, I wanted to do it first. Not because I wanted to get the hard thing over with though. Okay, partly because I wanted to get it over with. But really I did it because I knew there were going to be things I could’ve done better.

I have an overabundance of parts that I can use to build this first piece of equipment. I could theoretically get even more parts if I wanted to at no cost to me, so that’s nice. The piece of equipment, the one I have three of, is the maximum number I get. I only have three shots to get it perfect, so trying and having issues with this first thing is beneficial to making sure that the last thing I build (well the three last things I build) are done as close to perfect as I can possibly get. They are not cheap parts either, so I need to get it right and I ideally will get it right all three times.

Obviously a lot of this is still shrouded in mystery (oooh SpOoOoOoOoKy!!!), but that’s how it has to be for the moment. Hopefully this isn’t confusing! To recap, or maybe to clarify, I have two, possibly three pieces of equipment I’m trying to build and they all connect to each other. Like 1 -> 2 -> 3 or I can run it 1 -> 2 because the third piece is optional, a nice to have, but not needed kind of thing. The piece of equipment that I’ve just finished is the hardest and also the first thing in that chain (1), so I’m glad it’s done because I won’t get a lot of time next week for the rest.

The three pieces that are costly are (2) in the chain and I’ll be wrapping those up in quick succession (ideally) next week. Those need to get done before Friday and I need to verify that all the stuff I’ve built (a) works properly and (b) works together. That’s a lot of checks and rechecks, but it needs to happen because the equipment has to work if we end up using it and I really want to use it.

So that’s the news for the day. There’s still a long and painful birthing process ahead, but the latest things I’m creating are about to come to life and I’m excited to test it all out once it’s done and see if it does what I want it to do. The frustrating part is I could have parts 1 and 2 done, but until I connect them (IE 1 -> 2), I won’t know if I’ve succeeded in what I want these parts to do.

I can say that what I’m building is a simplified version of the original “big idea” equipment, which I think I mentioned has tons of wires, like a lot, almost 100 a lot. And they all have a very particular place they need to be plugged in at, that’s almost 100 wires you need to check and be assured they plug into the correct slot. No longer though, once I’m done I’ll cut that down to 4 wires total. Not bad, right? Ideally this will also take care of my noise issues, which is the second big reason for the build. That’s the “frustrating won’t know if it works until I try it” part of the story.

So you made it this far, a little preview of tomorrow’s post for your troubles. Tomorrow I’m switching gears and I’m going to start processing my dissertation data. I’m teaching my two helpers (here) how to do it, so they’ll learn. It won’t benefit me at all (I’m processing all my data solo), but it will be good for them to learn. Since I’m teaching them tomorrow I’m either going to talk about that process, or I’ll do what I usually do (assuming I have time and energy for it), which is share how we process EEG. It’s not as bad as you may imagine, despite the data looking like squiggles. But that’s for tomorrow’s post, so we’ll have to see what happens.


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