ArtCraftingElectronicsScience Fiction

Giger Counter

No, that's not a typo.

Shortly after the movie Prometheus hit theaters, Phil posted this on Twitter:

“If I ever go to an alien planet, I’m bringing a Giger counter. #ThingsILearnedFomSciFIMovies”

…which, of course, made me think, “I need a Giger counter”. And what’s the first thing you do when you want to build something in the style of H. R. Giger? That’s right, go out for some ribs…

So I headed over to a local science shop I frequent. It’s a dark, dusty and foreboding mad scientist’s emporium, hidden in a back alley on the dodgy end of town, and catering to even dodgier clientele.

…or possibly it’s a well-lit (if a bit cluttered) store in a strip mall, somewhere between Space Savers and Outback Steakhouse. But they do have a giant lizard …named Ozzy.

I wandered around for a bit, until the proprietor asked me what I was looking for. I told him I needed a 1/2 scale human skeleton. He paused briefly, walked over to a shelf, picked up an unmarked white box, and handed it to me.

It’s that kind of place.

(Update: You can get the same kit from Amazon now.)

The rib cage and spine looked like they’d make a good base for my H. R. Giger stuff. (Note: H. R. Gigerstuff was by far the creepiest Sid & Marty Krofft show ever. And that’s saying something.)

I figured it’d be nice if the thing contained a Geiger counter, so I picked up this kit from Adafruit. Yes, it’s an actual Geiger counter. It goes “bip” and everything.

I altered it a bit to move the LED to a more convenient spot (the base of the skull).

The case ended up being mostly bits of the skeleton, plus some flexible conduit. A piece of spine turned out to make a nice grip.

It’s pretty much just a bunch of those pieces stuck together, painted dark metallic (I used Rustoleum Carbon Mist), with the Geiger counter crammed inside. The circuit board’s painted black camouflage it a bit.

Here’s a video of it being tested against the 5uCi Cs137 check source (radioactive), and a plate of potassium salt (totally not).

– No, Phil didn’t make a typo. It’s a pun.
– Yes, it’s pronounced “geeger”. Just go with it.
– The reason it looks different in different shots is that I ended up making three of these: one was auctioned off for charity, one went to Phil, and one I made for myself.
– If you want to build your own, you can follow the tutorial on Instructables.

This was originally posted on August 14th, 2012 and is part of our Flashback Friday series where we dig up cool art and science posts and bring em back for new people to enjoy!

Steve DeGroof

Steve is an expat Canadian who now lives in North Carolina. He has worked, at one time or other, as: a TV repairman, a security guard at a children's hospital, and a janitor in a strip club. His current day job is as a computer programmer for a bank, which doesn't involve nearly as much being electrocuted and cleaning up vomit. He has a patent for a "Folding Stereoscopic Computer Display", which sounds a lot more impressive than it really is. He has created various "artworks", including: a baby woolly mammoth with a jetpack (which doesn't actually fly), a Giger counter (not a typo), a clockwork orange (a bowler-hat-wearing, wind-up piece of fruit that plays "Singing in the Rain"), a clock in the shape of Rick Astley that chimes "Never Gonna Give You Up" on the hour (for which he is sincerely sorry). His first book, "Dandelion Seeds", was written largely by accident (it's... complicated).

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