Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Dark SQUIDs

Dark SQUIDs. I don't know much about them at the moment, other than that they are involved in the operation of the main instrument on the JCMT that I'm working with, the Sub-millimeter Common User Bolometer Array 2 (or SCUBA2). Well, alright, I know that SQUID stands for Superconducting QUantum Interference Device, and that they help keep the bolometers that make up the individual "pixels" of the instrument running, but I don't know exactly how.

However, I find the term "dark SQUID" to be fairly evocative, so have a picture I drew of one on my phone:

Dark SQUID.
And yes, you read that right. I drew this picture on my phone. I got a new phone over Christmas (passing my previous one on to my sister), the Samsung Galaxy Note II. I'm quite pleased with it. It has pretty much the largest screen (5.5") of any phone on the market right now (the screen itself is a little larger than an entire iPhone), has a quad-core processor nearly equal to my laptop (which is fairly high-end itself), and comes with a nifty stylus that slots into the phone for easy portability, and which allowed me the fine control necessary to draw this picture. (Its camera is also what I used to get the picture in the last post.)

The phone itself utilizes Wacom tablet technology (used in various fashions by many, many digital artists) to get a lot of feedback from the stylus, allowing you to do things like vary the intensity of a stroke by changing how firmly you press down with the stylus. It also allows you to hover over things (to get tool-tips for instance) like you can using your mouse on a computer, because it can actually sense the stylus tip over a centimeter away from the phone surface. The stylus is also great for any sort of fine work on the screen, like typing.

While looking up Wacom Co. I learned that their tablets actually power the accompanying styluses [styli?] using the fascinating technique of resonant inductive coupling using magnetic fields, meaning the phone is actually wirelessly powering the stylus while it's in use. Maybe that's why it goes through battery faster...

(Finally, while looking up "squid" in the dictionary to see what the correct plural is, I discovered that though the word is attested to all the way back to around 1605-1615, the origin is uncertain. Interesting.)

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