Geiger Counter

I'm quiet happy with the Geiger counter I recently built.  I found many of the ideas for the electronic circuit I used on the internet, and I added some of my own ideas that significantly improved what I found on the internet.  Here is a link to the circuit:

I connect the output of the circuit to an interrupt input of an Arduino Micro microcontroller.  What I like about the circuit is that for every alpha, beta or gamma particle the Geiger tube detects, the circuit sends a single, very clean, pulse about four microseconds wide to the microcontroller, so that each particle detection is counted once and only once.  That is in contrast with many other circuits I tried that often count a particle detection multiple times.

Currently I'm using an LND 7313 Geiger tube (which, except for the style of its connectors, is the same as the more common 7317) instead of the LND 712 that I used originally.  The 7313 is a lot more sensitive to radiation than the 712.  It also runs at 550 volts, but R7 should be 4.7 megohms instead of 10 megohms.  The circuit should also run higher voltage tubes — it can easily be adjusted to provide more that 1000 volts.

For the MCU (microcontroller), I'm using a Pololu A-Star 32U4 Micro (item #3101), which is Arduino compatible.

For a display, I use a serial 20×4 LCD display, a sparkfun #LCD-09568.

The power supply consists of three 1.5v batteries in series connected to an adjustable step-up/step-down voltage regulator (pololu item #2118) adjusted to have a 5 volt output.

These four components, the Geiger counter circuit, the MCU, the LCD display, and the 5 volt power supply share a common ground, which I'll refer to as "GND".  The positive output of the power supply I'll call "POS".  POS is also common among the components.

The connections among the components are as follows:

From the Geiger counter circuit: Vcc 5V and Vcc go to POS, "to MCU interrupt" goes to pin 3 on the MCU, and ground goes to GND.

From the LCD display: RX goes to pin 2 on the MCU, VDD goes to POS, and GND goes to GND.

From the MCU (for the connections not previously listed): the 5V pin goes to POS, and the GND pin goes to GND.

Here is a link to the program I use in the Arduino Micro:

Call Screener v4.01 for Agere or LSI or Lucent Chipset Modems – Updated for Windows 10

Call Screener v4.01 is a software app for 32 or 64 bit Windows 7, 8, 8.1 or 10 that blocks unwanted phone calls on a landline phone.  Call Screener requires a dial-up modem that has voice and caller ID capability to be installed on your computer. (Call Screener uses only the voice and caller ID features of the modem — there is no need to “dial-up” anywhere.) When a call is blocked, Call Screener speaks the message contained in the ZapMessage.wav file to the caller. An example ZapMessage.wav file is included in the kit that comes in the download. Also, if you block anonymous calls, Call Screener plays an anonymous caller rejection message that instructs the caller how to remove their call blocking.  Optionally, you can specify a different “call blocked” message for each phone number that is to be blocked.  Documentation is also included in the kit. In addition to being able to block calls by caller number, Call Screener can also block calls by caller name, such as “Card Services” or “800 Service”, no matter what number appears on the caller ID.

Call Screener v4.01 includes the latest features of Call Screener v4, including:

●  The ability to gather from the internet the most complained about annoying callers and to automatically include them in the user’s call blocking list.

●  A button on its user interface to initiate reporting of Do Not Call List violations to the National Do Not Call Registry.

●  Call blocking by caller name as well as by caller number.  Blocking by caller name makes it easy to block all calls from, for example, “800 Service” or “Card Services”, no matter what number appears on the caller ID.

●  A “black list” of caller numbers or names to be blocked.  An individual blocking message can be associated with each number or name.  You are free to create your own blocking messages and to include them in Call Screener.  In addition to caller numbers and caller names you enter, the black list can optionally include blocking of anonymous calls, “out of area” calls, “unavailable” calls, and calls for which no caller ID is received.

●  A “white list” of numbers that are always accepted.  One use of the white list is to include particular numbers from, for example, “800 Service” if you otherwise block those calls.

●  The ability to provide a comment notation in the call block list to the right of a blocked caller number or caller name, which makes the list more compact and easier to comprehend in a single glance.

Changes for version 4.01
New feature: Ability to block all calls except for those on the Accept Always list.
Bug fix: Fixed the Accept Always bug.

Suggested Modems
Modems that I’ve tried and have worked well are the HiRO H50113 USB and the Rosewill RNX-56USB-AG external modems, and the HiRO H50006 and the Rosewill RNX-56AG PCI internal modems. I think the TRENDnet TFM-560U USB external modem may also work, but since I haven’t actually tried one, I can’t vouch for it. I’ve included drivers in the kit that support both caller ID and voice for the HiRO H50113 and H50006 modems.  NOTE: The Rosewill RNX-56USB modem will not work with Call Screener. I have read that there is a bug in Microsoft’s TAPI that prevents outgoing messages from being played when used with modems that have Conexant chipsets, such as the RNX-56USB.

Here’s a link to the Call Screener v4 kit:

Minus Times Minus Equals Plus

Here’s an example I like of a negative number times another
negative number equaling a positive number:

I have been giving away five dollars each minute.
Currently, at time t = 0, I have zero dollars, but I am continuing
to give away five dollars each minute in the form of IOU’s.
Thus, the equation for the number of dollars I have at time t is
D = -5t, where D represents dollars.

Using that equation, calculate how many dollars I had four
minutes ago.


by Bob Day
Copyright (C) June, 2012 by Bob Day. All rights reserved.

Time is weird.  Maybe not as weird as consciousness, but definitely weird.  But there are some simple things we can observe about time.  First, it seems to be the property of our universe that provides the capacity for change. Without this capacity, things could not change.  We see a car moving.  "Now" it's at one spot.  A little bit "later" it has moved a little farther down the road.  Without time it couldn't do that — it would remain frozen in place.  Question: Does time always involve motion?  I think maybe it does.  Suppose we're listening to music.  The sound is changing.  The sound is a sensation in our heads, and apparently not moving.  But what causes the sound is atoms vibrating — moving back and forth — in the air.  So sound requires motion to make it.  I'm pretty sure it's all like that — same thing with a leaf changing colors: chemical reactions are involved, and, consequently, motion of atoms.  Maybe you can think of a counterexample — an example of some kind of change that doesn't involve the motion of something.

Here's another weird thing about time: It seems to go at the same rate for everything.  The definition of one second is this: "The second is the duration of 9,192,631,770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the cesium 133 atom (at 0 degrees K)."  OK, we have a stopwatch and we'll clock our cesium 133 atom.  We time one second on our watch and count.  Sure enough — 9,192,631,770 periods!  Let's do it again.  We get the same thing, 9,192,631,770 periods.  So time went at the same rate in each of our measurements.  But wait — that's our definition of time: whenever the cesium 133 atom makes 9,192,631,770 transitions, that's one second, no matter how long it takes.  So our first measurement might have taken a second, and the second measurement, 100 years.  Except that, if that were the case, our stopwatch (and everything else) would have had to slow down too.  That's what I meant when I said that time, apparently, goes at the same rate for everything.  And if that rate changes, it changes for everything at once.

So, as far as we can measure, time seems to flow at the same rate for everything, at least in our neck of the universe.  But who is to say that time might not flow at a different rate in a chunk of space (in our same relativistic frame) a zillion or so light years away from us?  The immediate consequence of that might be that the speed of light in that chunk of space would be different from our speed of light.  Possible?  I couldn't say either way.  But, as far as I know, there is no rule that says the flow rate of time has to be a constant throughout the universe.


Vitamins for the Mind

                               The 4:00 Meeting
Tom and Bill are standing at two places on a straight road.  Tom starts
walking toward Bill and arrives at Bill’s original place 11 minutes after
Bill had left.  At perhaps a different time, Bill starts walking toward Tom
and arrives at Tom’s original place 15 minutes after Tom had left.  When
each reaches the other’s original place, he immediately turns and starts
back, and they meet in the center at 4:00.  Assuming that they walked at
constant rates, when did each start to travel on the road?

                          Alice Forgets Her Purse
On her way out of Macys, Alice walks down a down-moving escalator
in 50 steps.  When she reaches the bottom, she suddenly remembers
she forgot her purse, and she turns and runs back up the escalator in
125 steps, stepping five times as fast as she went down.  How many steps
are on the surface of the escalator?

                               The Twelve Coins
You have 12 coins.  They are identical, except that one of them is either
heavier or lighter than the rest.  In three weighings on a balance scale, find
the odd coin and whether it’s heavier or lighter.

Consciousness Totally Explained and Elucidated

Consciousness Totally Explained and Elucidated

Copyright (C) April, 2012 by Bob Day.
All rights reserved.

Like I have even a clue.  I don't think anyone does.  But I do have some thoughts about it.  Here's the definition I'm using: "Consciousness" — that mysterious phenomenon by virtue of which we can say "I" in our minds.

1. First off, you've gotta wonder why consciousness is even necessary — why it's useful from the standpoint of evolution; that is, what survival benefit does it confer?  From a survival point of view, why wouldn't we do equally well just receiving and reacting to stimuli in a totally automatic sort of way? — like we assume a computer does.  It could be a pretty complex path between the stimulus and the reaction — for example, a computer can play an excellent game of chess, but it's still completely automatic and "mindless".  I have no clue on this point.  But "Nature" does seem to have gone to quite a bit of effort surrounding its implementation of consciousness — it's given us an elaborate internal "display screen", or in Microsoft Windows terminology, an internal "desktop", that allows us to speak with ourselves internally, to see images in our minds, and to "think".  So, obviously, there is an evolutionary benefit to incorporating consciousness into the design of creatures over a purely automatic, reactive design.  Or is there?  Anyway, my own suspicion is that consciousness is just a cheap solution to an evolutionary problem.

2. Questions without answers.  Suppose we took a person's brain out of their head, took the brain apart, cell by cell, neuron by neuron, put it back together again, and put it back into the person's head.  Would the person have consciousness?  Would he or she be the same person with the original consciousness (whatever that might mean) ?

Suppose we took a person's brain apart, and duplicated it cell for cell.  Then we put the duplicate brain back into the person's head.  Would the person have consciousness?  Would he or she be the same person?

Suppose we put the original brain into one body and the duplicate brain into another?

Suppose we took a persons brain apart, duplicated it cell for cell with semiconductor chips, and hooked up the semiconductor brain into the person's body?

3. Suggestion for an experiment.  I thought about the idea of two people having duplicate brains a little bit more, and I can imagine one result being that they would share a consciousness. (Note – I'm got going so far as to say that this is a real possibility — that's why I used the word 'imagine'.)  Going a little further, maybe creatures get consciousness somewhat analogously to how a radio receives a radio signal.  Maybe we are all tuned to some kind of central source of consciousness.  Maybe each of us is tuned to a different "frequency" of that central source, with the result that each of us has a separate consciousness.  So maybe if two people have exactly duplicate brains, they are both tuned to the same "frequency", and thus share a consciousness. (It's my blog, so I can take these flights of fancy!)

There's just a smidgeon of evidence that this is a possibility: Many sets of identical twins say that that they have a sense of one another.  One can sense when the other is in danger, can feel the other's emotions, can "feel the other's pain".  Perhaps the brains of identical twins are tuned very close to the same "frequency", so their consciousness overlaps to a degree.  As far as I know there is no good experimental evidence for this.  In fact, as of April 2012, James Randi's million dollar prize for reliably demonstrating any kind of paranormal phenomena has gone unclaimed for 14 years.  The evidence, such as it is, is all anecdotal.  That doesn't mean it's worthless, but it does mean we're not on solid ground.

My idea for an experiment is to nail down what I said in the previous paragraph, one way or the other.  Get some cloned pairs of mice that are as close to being exact duplicates as possible.  Then take one mouse of each pair, give it a little electric shock, and see whether there is any reaction from the other one in the pair.  Or, teach one mouse in each pair to run a maze, and then see whether the other mouse in the pair can learn the maze faster.  Of course, we have to have all the usual experimental controls: mice in each pair separated; a control group of mice, etc, etc.


Copyright (C) April, 2012 by Bob Day
All rights reserved.

When I learned to read in grade school when I was a kid, the method for teaching reading in the school I went to was "phonetics".  You learned the various sounds each letter could make, which was often influenced by its position in the word or by its relationship with other letters (for example, the "bossy 'e'").  I learned to sound out the letters and say the words in my head.  And, throughout my life whenever I read I hear this voice in my head saying the words.  My mother had a thing about phonetics.  To her, that was obviously the only logical way to learn to read.  She used to harangue the teachers at my school about that.  It was obvious to me too.  There was also another method.  At that time it was called the "sight method".  Maybe it still is.  You learned to read by how words looked — internally and by their outline.  I remember a seeing book that taught that method in one of my early grade school classes.  It had pictures of rectilinear contours drawn around the words — in red, I think.  But that was nuts; it didn't make any sense.  Phonetics was the only logical way: letters make sounds; you sound out the words; you can speak the words out loud or say them in your head.  Makes total sense.


Recently, I've found out that the "sight method" also makes total sense.  My daughter learned to read at a very young age.  I think she began to teach herself to read when she was around two years old — long before she went to any kind of school.  Maybe that's significant.  I think she began to learn to read before she knew the alphabet or that letters had sounds.  She must have learned to recognize words purely by what they look like.  I had an interesting conversation with her a few months ago, and during that conversation, I found out something absolutely fascinating.  She does not hear a voice in her head speaking the words as she reads.  I was so totally surprised by that, that I questioned her very closely.  I think she was surprised too.  I don't understand how anyone can not have a voice speaking in their head when they read (I've since tried to turn off the voice, and I absolutely can't).  On the other hand, my daughter doesn't understand how anyone can have a voice in their head when they read.

A while ago, in a computer programming newsgroup on the Internet, there was a discussion about the same thing.  Some people in that discussion said they heard a voice; others said they didn't.  One guy said he sometimes heard a voice, but when he did, he "turned it off".

Well, go a whole lifetime and then learn something totally new about something very basic.  Not obvious at all.  Maybe people who hear a voice in their head as they read learned to read phonetically, and maybe people who don't learned via the sight method.  Maybe.  And there's this theory:  Maybe there are two different kinds of ability to read built into the circuitry of our brains, and maybe some people can learn only by one method, some only by the other, and some by either method but usually not both.  Maybe one reason some people have trouble learning to read is that they're taught by the method that is wrong for them.

Bottom line?  If I had it to do over again and I could choose, I think I would pick the sight method.  My daughter can read very fast — she can read a 200 page book in about an hour, and has no problem with comprehension.  I can read a whole lot faster than I speak, but not nearly that fast.  Also, people who don't have a voice in their head when they read, when they're watching a newscast on TV, can listen to the newscaster and read the crawl script at the bottom of the screen at the same time.  My daughter attests to this.  I can't do that.  For me, reading the crawl script blocks out the newscaster and vice-versa.


Weight Loss

Weight Loss
Copyright (C) April, 2012 by Bob Day
All rights reserved.

It began in the late 1980's when I stepped on the scale one morning.  I weighed 175 pounds! — which is a little overweight for my 5' 8" height.  And I said, right then and right there, "That's it!!".  I was in my mid 50's, and for years my weight had been slowly increasing.  And I didn't feed good.  I felt kind of slow, sluggish, bloated, and heavy.  I could see where things were headed.  So — no more!  And I was able to make it stick.

For years my weight went up and down between the high 160's and the mid 150's, but never again did I weigh 175.  But I still wasn't happy with my weight, and around 1997 I set a goal of losing one quarter of my highest weight.  So my goal became to get down to 131 pounds.  Totally arbitrary?  Yes.  Why one quarter of my weight?  I don't know.  But that was my goal — 131 pounds. It took 5 or 6 years.  When I got down to 140, friends would sometimes tell me that I was too thin.  One person was concerned that I might have anorexia.  I ignored them all.  When I got down to 135, that last 4 pounds was very difficult — it took more than another year.  But I finally did it.  And now I've been under 130 for a couple of years.  I have stayed between 125 and 130, a few pounds above underweight.

Here are some things I learned:
1)  Gaining weight after middle age is not the inevitable process that the therapy world have you believe it is.  You don't have to gain weight if you don't want to.

2)  Weight loss gets easier as you go along.  Your diet just becomes the way you eat  — part of your normal life style.

3)  Calories aren't everything — Calories are the only thing!  If you burn more calories than you take in, you will lose weight.  Exercise has a whole lot of benefits, but it isn't necessary for weight loss.

Diet advice:
1)  Three meals a day; no snacks, and no "in between" meals.

2)  Give up sugar.  No sugar in coffee, soda, or on cereal.  Give up fruit juice — it's mainly just another form of sugar.  Water is the only liquid you need.

3)  No alcohol.  Alcohol has no food value, alcohol is just empty calories.

4)  Measure the amounts of foods you eat by weighing them on a scale.

5)  Establish a very regulated diet that controls the calories you take in.  It's much easier to follow a diet that doesn't require you to be constantly counting calories.

6)  Round out your diet with supplements for nutrients that your diet does not contain enough of.

Complete Protein Organic Whole Grain Bread Recipe

It took me many trials and many adjustments to develop this recipe for a nicely rising whole grain bread.  Note: The amounts may look over obsessive in their precision, but they are just the amounts I somehow ended up with over many trial loaves.  They probably don't need to be all that exact.

Dry Ingredients                                                    Liquid Ingredients
78g  King Arthur organic whole wheat flour         322g   water
        (not stone ground)                                        29g     clover honey (or other mild
79g  organic whole amaranth flour                       1/2 Tbsp  extra virgin organic olive oil,
        (not stone ground)                                                       first cold press
79g  organic whole quinoa flour (not stone ground)
79g  organic whole buckwheat flour (not stone ground)
70g  Bob's Red Mill vital wheat gluten flour
23g  King Arthur Baker's Special Dry Milk (a nonfat non-instant dry milk)
7.7g salt (not sea salt)
6.1g Fleischmann's bread machine yeast

1.  The wheat, amaranth, quinoa, and buckwheat should add to 315g — measure these without rezeroing the scale: 78g, 157g, 236g, and finally 315g.

2.  For baking the bread: In my Zojirushi BBCC-X20 bread machine I used the Home Made baking course in Memory 1, which I set to the following numbers of minutes: Preheat 30, Knead 23, and Rise1 45.  Then I  transferred the loaf to a 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" loaf pan and did a final rise in the bread machine for about 44 minutes (a "Rise2" so the surrounding temperature would be 82.4 degrees F).

3.  Put the loaf into an oven preheated to 425 degrees F and immediately lower the temperature to 400 degrees F. After 9 minutes lower the temperature to 350 degrees F.  Tent the loaf after 19 minutes and continue baking until the internal temperature of the loaf is 201 degrees F (94 degrees C).  The total baking time should be about 34 minutes.

4.  Makes about a 1 1/2 pound loaf.