Kids, Do Try This at Home

We built a backyard cannon, and you can, too

4 min read

Whoosh Boom Splat is a book for people who get along with the staff at the local hardware store. When I went to find parts for the T-shirt cannon on page 120, I got the new kid at the store. He was assigned the job of helping me as a way of learning the store’s inventory. We spent the better part of an hour finding the right combination of ­reducers, couplers, valves, and PVC pipes to match the functional specs laid down by author William Gurstelle.

The book (published by Three Rivers Press, New York, in 2007) contains 10 projects for people who want to create interesting but potentially dangerous gadgets from PVC pipe and other readily available supplies. At the safer end of the spectrum are a blowgun for miniature marshmallows and a balloon-­powered slingshot. For the more daring, there’s a steam cannon that requires injecting water into a red-hot pipe fitting, a hair spray and Taser�powered potato shooter, and a pulse-jet demonstrator, which involves setting off several hundred controlled explosions inside a glass jar in the course of a few seconds. All 10 projects are reasonably safe as long as the reader observes the proper precautions.

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Deep Learning Could Bring the Concert Experience Home

The century-old quest for truly realistic sound production is finally paying off

12 min read
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Image containing multiple aspects such as instruments and left and right open hands.
Stuart Bradford
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Now that recorded sound has become ubiquitous, we hardly think about it. From our smartphones, smart speakers, TVs, radios, disc players, and car sound systems, it’s an enduring and enjoyable presence in our lives. In 2017, a survey by the polling firm Nielsen suggested that some 90 percent of the U.S. population listens to music regularly and that, on average, they do so 32 hours per week.

Behind this free-flowing pleasure are enormous industries applying technology to the long-standing goal of reproducing sound with the greatest possible realism. From Edison’s phonograph and the horn speakers of the 1880s, successive generations of engineers in pursuit of this ideal invented and exploited countless technologies: triode vacuum tubes, dynamic loudspeakers, magnetic phonograph cartridges, solid-state amplifier circuits in scores of different topologies, electrostatic speakers, optical discs, stereo, and surround sound. And over the past five decades, digital technologies, like audio compression and streaming, have transformed the music industry.

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