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What's some of the coolest technology you've used?

  1. Jan 23, 2017 #1
    I'm not a physicist, so my answer is not glamorous, but I'm wondering what's some of the coolest technology you have used at work or in research?

    I am doing a temporary job where I am testing point of sale systems and their ability to handle various types of currency. I have some physical cards made with a card encoder, but I don't get to play with the encoder itself. Years ago I did get to play with a card encoder at a different job.

    Here I have a machine hooked up to a computer that can simulate any type of credit card (test cards of course, no real money involved). It may not sound exciting, but it's a really cool job, as we document issues with the system and are really a part of the process. My strong point is my ability to come up with new ways of breaking the system! (Before the customer does, one hopes).

    Of course, your answer may be "particle accelerator," but as you can see, I am curious about any neat gizmo that you have used that you thought was cool, even if you were the only one that thought so.

    -Dave K
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  3. Jan 23, 2017 #2


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    in Biology:
    electron microscopes
    scanning electron microscopes
    confocal microscopes
    differential interference/fluorescence microscopes (I like small stuff)

    also pipetmen (and associated technologies): measures small volumes fast and accurately, with a new plastic tip for each measurement (avoids contamination)

    IR thermometer: useful and fun

    3D printer
    Milling machine
  4. Jan 23, 2017 #3
    Probably supercomputers, I used them for a massive simulation in college that required more power than the computer labs at the school could provide. I was also allowed to upload test programs to IBM's quantum computer.

    Neural networks I've recently discovered to be a really cool technology. I'm currently rebuilding several of my AI routines to use them. I've also become obsessed with genetic algorithms. They often come up with really unique solutions to problems that I never would have thought of, and outperform my carefully calculated solutions.
  5. Jan 23, 2017 #4
    Yes, I'm fascinating with GA's (and all the possible variants) also. (Ant colony optimization is neat. I haven't gotten really into it yet though).

    Stupid question - but I know what a neural network is in theory, but I don't know how it exists as a physical thing. Is it software that's running on a computer or supercomputer, or is there a physical "network" of something that you are using.

    -Dave K
  6. Jan 23, 2017 #5
    It's software, I've never heard of any hardware accelerated NN, though it may happen in the future as they may start taking AI and simulation jobs in games.
  7. Jan 23, 2017 #6


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  8. Jan 23, 2017 #7
    One of the coolest things I've used recently are these little deformable mirrors that have actuators at the back so you can make them different shapes to simulate astigmatism and other sorts of distortion.
  9. Jan 23, 2017 #8
    Do they have a name?
  10. Jan 24, 2017 #9
    Electric coffee percolator.
  11. Jan 24, 2017 #10
    Don't get me started on coffee devices. (oh, too late).

    I have an espresso machine, a stovetop espresso maker (sometimes called a moka pot), and a portable french press I use to avoid the terrible coffee that is served at most offices and workplaces.

    -Dave K
  12. Jan 24, 2017 #11


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    I get to play with dilution refrigerators with a base temperatures of 8mK...ls that cool enough:cool:
  13. Jan 24, 2017 #12
    Looks like you won this round.
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  18. Jan 24, 2017 #17
    Can never have too many options for coffee.

    I read your response first thing in the morning, and promptly discovered that I've run completely out of coffee :frown: not an ideal start to the day!
  19. Jan 24, 2017 #18
    I am so sorry this happened to you. I hope by now this injustice has been resolved and never happens again.
  20. Jan 24, 2017 #19

    Stephen Tashi

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    I recall estimating amounts of cut and fill using a topo map and planimeter.
  21. Jan 24, 2017 #20


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    Last edited by a moderator: May 8, 2017
  22. Jan 25, 2017 #21


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    I had the 1 kB version.

    But I am quite serious. While there were plenty of cool things I have seen since, I don't think they beat the Wow factor.
  23. Jan 25, 2017 #22
    My first computer was a TI994A in the 80s. I never saw one of the ones you have. When did it come out?

    -Dave K
  24. Jan 25, 2017 #23


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  25. Jan 25, 2017 #24
    I wish I still had my TI. We didn't have storage, so if I wanted to play a game I had to program it and just leave the computer on. When I got sick of it I'd turn the computer off and my game went *poof*. Eventually we got tape storage. Ah, the sound takes me back!

    -Dave K
  26. Jan 25, 2017 #25
    Since we have gotten onto retro-tech a little bit, some may be interested in this site: http://savethesounds.info/

    I think they could do a lot more.

    -Dave K
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