The Secret City

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Aug 062010

Today in History, the United States became the only country in history to engage in Nuclear Warfare. 80,000 estimated Japanese died in the first attack, climbing to a possible 140,000 as a result of lasting effects of the bombing.

You probably have seen a billion and one great posts regarding the historic, gut wrenching, and generally awesome power of the nuclear weapons that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, up on through the terrifying surreal imagery of the Tsar Bomba test explosion. But, what you might not be aware of, or at least in my mind is not talked about very much is the Oak Ridge uranium enrichment plant. Above is a picture of the plant.

Prior to the outbreak of World War 2 Nuclear Boogaloo, there were only 3000 some odd residents of Oak Ridge Tennessee. It was just one of many normal quiet little towns spread across the United States vast landscape. But thanks in part to it’s proximity to railways and highways, as well as it’s low population Oak Ridge would become home to the dubiously named “Clinton Engineering Works”. By 1945, Oak Ridge would sport a population of 75,000 and be home to the largest building in the world. At one point in fact, Oak Ridge was consuming 1/6th of the entire electrical load of the entire United States. Of course, no one knew that this once aspiring hamlet had grown into a marvel of modern engineering. The entire town was surrounded by layers of fencing, and armed guard towers. Seven gates would have to be passed before anyone could enter the town. The work being done there was so secretive that most of the residents of the town had no idea what it was exactly they were doing until August 6th, 1945. Throughout the Manhattan Project Oak Ridge was simply referred to as “Site X”.

Oak Ridge, was where uranium enrichment was occurring. Without enriched uranium, critical mass could not be reliably achieved. Much of the uranium 235 used in Fatman came from reactors built in Oak Ridge. The Manhattan Project stands as one of the most expensive, and astounding human engineering projects in history. Much of the cost of the project was expended in developing Oak Ridge and the enrichment facilities there.

Apollo Program Total Cost: $170 billion
Manhattan Project Total Cost: $23.4 billion

 Posted by at 2:22 pm
Aug 052010

Our Neighbors ( quite literally ), the awesome folks at the madagascar institute are offering some intense classes in august. I highly recommend hitting these guys up for knowledge. They’ve done all the crazy dangerous avant-garde work so you don’t have to.

The line up I see currently listed includes:

FLAMETHROWERS: Theory and Practice ** Sunday August 8th, 1-4pm $60
MIG WELDING with KIM! ** Monday August 9th, 7-10pm $60
Shop Tools 101 ** Thursday August 12th, 7-9pm

All classes are taught by genuine artstars at the Madagascar Insitute at 217 Butler Street, Brooklyn. Dress warm and leave dirty. Space is limited — click on the links below for more information and to register in advance. Email for more information.

Read More about this on their site :

 Posted by at 12:13 pm
Jul 202010

… and after one small step, two men would stare out across what one of them called “magnificent desolation”. Orbiting overhead another man would keep vigil, as on earth half of a billion people were riveted to television screens receiving broadcasts of events as they unfolded on what had been until that moment a dreamscape. Kings, Tyrants, and Leaders relegated to awestruck spectators. We were there all of us explorers, and to us that grand frontier that has sat elusive in our night sky, forever a source of inspiration and hope, was finally so very close to us. We dared to dream, and we dared to make that dream real.

I hope that I will some day look on as mankind takes it’s first steps onto a planet that is not our own. That would be the greatest.

Some would say it was Engineers, and Scientists that got us to the moon. That’s no more true than saying it was America or John F Kennedy who got us there. So many people have given of themselves down through the centuries, some giving everything. Apollo was everyone’s. This anniversary belongs to all of us. So, enjoy the wonder, the excitement, and the pride all over again. Enjoy it while it lasts, because some day soon we’ll be sitting glued to televisions and lcds as men and women of earth step out onto the vastness of Mars.


Check it out: here. Not sure who put all the effort into making this, but lord knows it’s amazing. And Hacking the AGC would be a very appropriate way to spend this anniversary at a hackerspace.

 Posted by at 3:21 pm
May 302010

During Hackday I worked on a display for the Stabby ID.

I have six or so HDSP 2111 units lying around. They also come in green and red led models.

Read on for Schematic and Demo Arduino Source
Continue reading »

 Posted by at 7:53 pm
May 252010

Video of our presentation at Hackday:

In the video,

Ben Combee is speaking, Max Henstell is working the stabster’s pneumatics and Mark Tabry is standing by to protect bystanders, and I am off camera to the left looking pretty for the cameras.

Not in the video is Bill Ward, Charles Pax, as well as the original Max.

* Special thanks to my friend Adam from Twilio who provided us with some assistance in the effort.

For the blow by blow of the event check out our time lapse. Trust me it was 24 hours of tedium just as grueling as watching this 2.5 minute clip.As you can see this was an pretty large effort by NYCR and a hell of a lot more went into this project than is readily apparent. Just getting the equipment there was an event all its own. Max and Charles worked tirelessly to repair Stabby’s pneumatic stabber arm. Max also worked on wiring up the actuators and accompanying arduino code to link up with Ben, Bill, and Marks twilio interface code base. I worked with Mark on a display that showed debug info from the arduinos ( blogarythmic cred ) as well as caller ( aka stabber ) id when stabbing.

We finished up about 5 minutes before time was called… literally. Came down to the wire. Stabby was awarded a runner up award, and supposedly will be on display at Tech Crunch on Wednesday some time during the day.

We had a hell of a lot of fun, and were excited to present a functioning project ( a first for me =P ). Even more exciting was winning a runner up award in a contest that didn’t actually have runner up awards. I guess they were afraid of being stabbed.

 Posted by at 6:34 pm
May 222010


We’re time lapsing, and Mr Stabby is here getting his API action on… literally.

Stop by what we are calling battle station resistor in the deep recesses of the hacker caves.

If you have spare sparkfun line relay breakouts… we could use 4 to six if you have some to spare… otherwise we’ll be rube goldeberg a solution.

 Posted by at 5:10 pm
May 172010

As you can see from our time lapse of the NYCR stage and dance floor (actually just our workshop floor without tables) we had a great time. Thanks for being awesome friends of NYCR. Hope to do it again, bigger and better, soon.

Be prepared. The next one will be even more awesome.

Also search for tag NYCResistor on flickr for more awesome photos.

 Posted by at 10:17 pm
May 172010

When you plug in, or join the wireless network at NYC Resistor, you are joining a very special network. We’re one of the first networks to join with Agora Link. The North American arm of a global Research network that is linking hackerspace’s internal networks together into one awesome collaborative mesh. We’re tied in with the ChaosVPN in Germany, and as of this past weekend we have 50 registered ( not necessarily active yet ) end points. Anyways, if you are interested in this sort of thing, you can read more about that here:

What does this get us? What’s the payoff? Well, we’re just starting to get to work on demonstrating that. First up on deck is a plan to host an international CTF competition using hackerspaces and other labs as the meeting points for teams. So look forward to more details on that in the near future. But, it won’t stop there. We’ve got a bunch of really great ideas that should be popping up over the next year.

 Posted by at 12:41 pm
May 142010

Shuttle Atlantis just lifted off on its final voyage. There are 2 shuttle missions left before the end of the shuttle program. I suggest not missing a single launch, and if possible seeing them live. The shuttle program has to be the most inspirational scientific program currently operating. Nothing really makes me more proud to be a human being, or living in the times that we do than watching one of these rather good looking vehicles get launched into the heavens and far beyond.

Really looking forward to another more ambitious space program from anywhere at all, since it seems NASA won’t be pursuing constellation. =(

But let’s look at Atlantis’ rich history. This good ship has flown 32 missions ( 31 of which have completed successfully, with 32 looking beautiful ). She’s been in the shuttle fleet since her flight readiness firing Sept. 5, 1985. 25 years this shuttle has been in service, defying a decision to decommission it in 2008. Atlantis was intended to be relegated to a support role for Endeavor and Discovery, but Atlantis was born to fly and that’s just what she’s doing right now at 2500 mph.

Atlantis made history June 29 of 1995 when she was the first shuttle to dock with the Mir space station as part of STS-71. Before that during STS-30, Atlantis launched the first interplanetary probe launched from a shuttle. The Magellan probe was sent to explore Venus.

Many people have contributed to Atlantis’ successful missions over the years, but Rockwell International has the distinction of having built her. So to the engineers over there, I am sure today’s flight is especially gratifying.

Anyways, Atlantis, from all the folks at NYC Resistor. Thanks for being utterly amazing. Enjoy retirement, I hope you find a really great home.

Fun Fact, Atlantis has traveled 115,770,929 miles ( 186,315,250 km ) and counting…

 Posted by at 2:52 pm