Sunday, June 21, 2009


Well, you guys seem to have taken my advice from last year. Nobody asked me what I wanted for my birthday, and I got exactly what I wanted: A nice relaxing day with my girlfriend Nancy, and about two liters of booze, legally obtained less than 10 minutes after the liquor store opened.

I'll be having a party next week, with lots of beer, music and people. It'll be good knowing that if the cops show up, I don't have to jump out a window and run into the forest, like a high schooler.

Any ideas for music? Post a comment now, because I know that at least one of the hundreds of thousands of people who read this blog has good music taste.

Saturday, I woke up at 5:30 AM, and went on an epic journey over the UMass campus, looking for Nancy's parents. Apparently, Mapquest blows, even when its supposed to take you to the second tallest building in the entire city of Amherst.

Also, I found out yesterday that my uncle Eddie got me an iPod touch. I am such a technology whore, but its good to have relatives who know me so well. Eddie is a ridiculously generous guy, by the way. He got me my G1, which is basically everything I could ever need ever, but in my pocket. He takes me out to dinner when I'm there and doesn't ask a thing in return. He's not bad-looking either; any single ladies want a nice Lebanese boy? I'll give you a number.

Nancy got me a twelve-pack of Ferrero Rondnoir chocolates (fantastic) and half a kilogram of Twizzler's licorice (also fantastic). She also got me a set of really good cat ears to wear on my head. You might be wondering, "Why does Taylor need a set of cat ears?" To which I respond, "Cause I look good in damn near everything, cat ears included."

Friday, June 19, 2009

400 2 20 126 150


I hereby declare victory over the P-2000 Micropipette Puller! Remember these numbers, my friends!

400 2 20 126 150

Those are the Heat, Filament, Velocity, Delay and Pull values for the project I've been working on for two and a half weeks! I got to use a really great optical microscope for to look at the finished product, and let me tell you something; the old tips we used to use just look like crap compared to what we have now. Also, the old ones are really brittle, but the ones I made break far less often.

Next week, I'm gonna be able to put my tips under an SEM, or Scanning Electron Microscope. That'll give me a nano-scale image of the tip so we can see just how sharp it really is. I'll post images when I get them.

Now, I never really explained why we needed these super thin optical fibers. Well, they're going to go into what is called an NSOM, or Near-Field Scanning Optical Microscope. Its a type of microscope that uses laser light to excite the electrons on the surface of a sample, and uses that data for topographical information. The sharper our tips are, the better they act as a guide for the light waves to where we need to scan.

I don't know what they're gonna have me do next week. The NSOM isn't quite in working order yet,the SEM is broken and we're waiting for a technician to fix it, and my professor is in Switzerland for a conference. Maybe they'll let me play with the laser? I can make infrared marshmellows! Well, whatever I get to do will be exciting, and I'll kick ass at it, so no worries!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Pullin' Fibers

This is the Sutter P-2000 Micropipette and optic fiber puller. It uses a CO2 laser to heat up glass and then pull it into very thin strands. I have been working for nearly two weeks to get this machine to make the correct shape on my optic fibers, and I'm so close I can smell the burnt quartz. I calibrated the thing, felt joy when it pulled its first optic fiber, felt despair when it failed. I've gone through a good 8 meters of single-mode optic fiber. That's the cheap kind, but still, its annoying. Until otherwise instructed, my job is to find the one magical configuration of parameters that makes this machine pull an optic fiber into a long, gracefully tapered tip.

The machine gives me control over 5 different parameters:
  • HEAT: Goes from 0-999, and controls how hot the laser gets. The tips tend to get thinner as the heat goes up, but too hot and they start to curl up.
  • FILAMENT: Goes from 0-15, and controls how wide a section of the fiber gets heated up before pulling. According to the manual, you never need to use more than 0 on optic fiber, but I've been experimenting with really high filament values to some good effect.
  • VELOCITY: Goes from 0-255, and in a roundabout way controls how hot the fiber is before the machine gives it the final hard pull.
  • DELAY: Goes from 0-255, and controls how long before or after the laser shuts off the machine should start pulling.
  • PULL: Goes from 0-255, and controls how hard the machine pulls.
I've gotten so close so many times, I don't know if I can go on for much longer without going insane. I'll pull a tip, it'll look perfect and then I'll take it down to the microscope and my grad student mentor tells me "Close, but not quite" really nicely and then she'll show me a good tip under the microscope and I'm completely off. Here's my basic problem:

Guess which one I've been getting?

And what's worse, apparently nobody on the internet has the same problem as me, cause there are no forums or help sites about this machine.

Next article won't be me complaining, don't worry.

Edit: I just found out that Sutter publishes a "cookbook" of programs for pulling micropipettes. 2 problems: I need programs for optical fibers, not micropipettes, and I they haven't published one for my machine, only for the P-97 puller. The P-97 uses an electric filament, not a laser, so it can't melt quartz as well as the laser on the p-2000. Dammit.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Project Natal

So, Microsoft finally decided to try and muscle in on the Wii's Motion Control Monopoly. But check out the impressive(if wildly speculative and ambitious) preview video for Project Natal; the name is a hint about how far along they are designing the thing. 

Did you notice the songs at the beginning and end? That's right loyal readers, that was "Clunk-Rewind-Clunk-Replay-
Clunk" by Los Campesinos! Its the 36 second pop masterpiece that you wish was 4 minutes longer and had intelligible lyrics! Score one for Nintendo for supporting good artists!

PS: This is Aleks Campesinos, the female vocalist for Los Campesinos. 

She quit the band to attend school. The band still loves her, and the fans will all miss her sweet, airy vocals, and the great contrast it made with Gareth's hectic style. I saw her up close at a Los Campesinos show in Boston. Turns out she's actually three lawn gnomes standing on top of each other. Also, she was very nice.

Good Luck Aleks. Hope you don't miss being a rock star when you're working on a term paper.