Off-topic, On-topic ... Circuits are circuits

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by BillO, Apr 29, 2011.

  1. BillO

    Thread Starter Well-Known Member

    Nov 24, 2008
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    I'm not sure I'm even allowed to ask this question, as it seems the rules herein are rather, shall we say, dynamic. I'm also not sure I can even ask it without grating on peoples sensibilities, as I seem to have a unique ability to do. But here goes....

    Aren't circuits just circuits?

    Here's what I mean. I have seen posts closed because they deal with high voltages, or because they deal with motorcycle tail lights. They get closed because someone is afraid the information will be misused, misconstrued or misinterpreted resulting in someone getting hurt.

    Well, what if tell someone that you could get away with a 500 ohm resistor and a typical red LED to make an indicator light and the OP goes and burns himself with the soldering iron?

    Or what if someone asks how to transmit data over a wireless link between two Arduinos and uses that knowledge to create a remote control bomb then blows up 15 people?

    In the vast majority of the cases on AAC we have no idea what the end use will actually be, if someone toddles off with their new found information and ends up stubbing their toe on the way or use it for genocide or whatever. AAC still supplied the information. The liability, if it even exists at all, is still there.

    If I remember correctly, and I do, ignorance is not a defense in the eyes of the law. AAC cannot plead "Well, we had no idea what they were going to do with the information we gave them."

    :confused:
     
  2. Wendy

    Moderator

    Mar 24, 2008
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    Actually this is incorrect. You are misquoting and misapplying the old adage. If you violate the law ignorance is not an excuse. If someone uses a legal circuit to violate the law that is their problem, they are adults, and their ignorance is no excuse.

    I can not think of any law that forbids teaching electronics, unless you live in a dictatorship. We don't.

    If I knowingly teach someone how to build a countdown timer that is used in a bomb I am culpable. If I teach someone how to build a countdown timer for a stadium, and then the circuit is used in a bomb the the builder is culpable. Teaching basic electronics is not a crime. Teaching basic electronics that you know is going to be used in a crime is criminal.

    We had a situation not too long ago someone made a joke (in poor taste IMO) about needing a countdown timer for a bomb. Even though he said he was joking his thread wound up being closed. Context is important.
     
  3. BillO

    Thread Starter Well-Known Member

    Nov 24, 2008
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    This is where the old adage comes in Bill. If you teach someone something that is potentially dangerous and you do not let them know the dangers involved, you are culpable. Anyway, I do not really want to argue law, as that is very open to interpretation. I am more interested in how things should work on this site.

    So, if I take the rest of your response as correct, then we should be asking the OP what their intended use is before we respond with an answer or closure of the thread?

    The reason I ask is, most of the time we are not told what the 'countdown timer' is for. If they don't explicitly tell us, we just go ahead and answer their questions.

    Here is an example.

    OP 1 asks) How do I build a countdown timer?

    OP 2 asks) How do I build a countdown timer? I want to time hard boiled eggs.

    OP 3 asks) How do I build a countdown timer? I want to time boiling Live Lobster for dinner. I want to make sure they are dead, but not over done.

    OP 4 asks) How do I build a countdown timer? I want to time boiling my neighbors chihuahua to make sure it's dead. It annoys me.

    OP 5 asks) How do I build a count down timer? I want to blow up the Pentagon.

    At some point along this escalation nearly everyone might find it's time to lock the thread. Right? The problem is, which point? OP 1 might actually be the one boiling chihuahuas, and OP 5 might just want to time the development cycle of his B&W prints but is a smart ass. Yet the information requested is exactly the same. It has exactly the same danger in all cases because you do not know what the original requester has in mind.

    If we allow 1 thru 3, then 4 and 5 will just learn to lie or not tell at all.

    It just seems so utterly arbitrary.

    "We'll give you all the information you want, just as long as you do not tell us what you will do with it."

    That can't be right!
     
  4. magnet18

    Senior Member

    Dec 22, 2010
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    messed up world, but yea, that's about right.
    unfortunately the law and it's application isn't purely objective...
     
  5. mbohuntr

    Active Member

    Apr 6, 2009
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    I'm inclined to agree with Bill M., It is legal to sell firearms, as long as reasonable care is given to the end use of the product. One cannot always predict the uses of a circuit, but "reasonable" care and thought ought to be given to the likely use and consequences of such a circuit before providing such information.
    I have no doubt that this site is monitored for such red flags by both our Mods, and less noticable people who are paid to keep us safe. As it should be. (no, i'm no big brother conspiracy nut) but I feel better knowing they are out there doing their job.
    If we open the floodgates to questionable circuits, High voltage, and modifications that could harm us or worse... the innocent bystander, we are being irresponsible. just my 2 cents.. ET
     
  6. retched

    AAC Fanatic!

    Dec 5, 2009
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    Let GOD sort it out.

    Im gonna learn what I wanna know.

    If the count down timer guy starts with "I know NOTHING about electronics" then he has a long way to go before he should be modding ANYTHING.. let alone a vehicle.

    If you dont have the confidence that you can do it with NO help, then you may have a bug in your "right-and-wrong-choosing-circuit".

    Its 12v DC! alls i need is a resistor to get it to 3.2vDC for the LED in my tail light! right?

    wrong. and no-one responds asking why it may be so difficult.

    If you want to do it, learn it.

    Learn TVS, tranzorbs, MOVs, LEDs, regulation, load dumps, transients, alternators, battery charging voltages, etc...

    They are supposed to come here to learn "All About Circuits", not "A little bit about part of a circuit that might work for a few pumps of the brake pedal." ;)
     
  7. BillO

    Thread Starter Well-Known Member

    Nov 24, 2008
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    @mbohintr

    Well, I'm not in disagreement with Bill M. Just still trying to get to a consensus.

    So, we should ask about the end use before giving the information?
     
  8. BillO

    Thread Starter Well-Known Member

    Nov 24, 2008
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    @retched

    Well, this is a different perspective. So, we should only share potentially dangerous information with those we feel will understand it and be able to apply it properly? Would this be without regard to the actual application?
     
  9. BillO

    Thread Starter Well-Known Member

    Nov 24, 2008
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    Okay, so we ask everyone "What are you going to do with this?" before we help?


    Hence the need for judges. It also makes it soooo much fun for the enlightened!;)
     
  10. mbohuntr

    Active Member

    Apr 6, 2009
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    I would have a hard time believing a wack job, or even an overzealous student would give you a straight answer if they knew you might withhold the information. But if the OP asks suspicious questions, or if the circuit obviously can cause harm, I would not help further...
     
  11. mbohuntr

    Active Member

    Apr 6, 2009
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    One thing I like about AAC, is that they really won't "Do it for you" Most people, myself included, dream about Tesla coils, and rail guns. when I saw how much work was involved, and how much I needed to learn, it wasn't practical anymore. There are hundreds of circuit archives on the net, but without some basic knowledge, it isn't really going to happen.
    Op's are usually directed to the library where they can either put forth the effort, or give up.
     
  12. BillO

    Thread Starter Well-Known Member

    Nov 24, 2008
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    Interesting reply and very much to my point.

    How do you know though? I mean, what is a suspicious question? I went through a lot of the forums and can think of a malicious application for almost every question.

    We are definitely dealing in a realm that has broad and (for want of a better term) enormously powerful application. Helping someone with biasing a BJT could be helping them realize any one of literally millions of end applications.
     
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2011
  13. JoeJester

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 26, 2005
    3,373
    1,157

    Don't forget, most here deal with or have dealt with newbies on a daily basis, in the pre-internet days. The questions typically are asked in the same manner and you can learn to "read between the lines."

    Does that mean the OP could "sneak one by"? Sure. I am taking it on good faith that the OP is doing what they stated the in the project statement. If they deviate from that, it becomes their responsibility.

    Even if it were mandatory for each user to put their location, would someone hold back information if the OP was in a hostile area? Everything is on good faith here in the forums. I take it on good faith that you are where you say you are. If the IP address was posted, I could verify, somewhat, the location. If you were masking your location, that would be indicative that your intentions are not as stated. If you are masking your location, your trustworthyness would decrease and I suspect the cooperation you get from the members would also decrease.

    I typically take people as truthful ... till proven otherwise. I'm sure other members have similiar criteria.
     
  14. BillO

    Thread Starter Well-Known Member

    Nov 24, 2008
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    Thoughtful response Joe.

    So, its best for the OP to give no clue as to the final use?
     
  15. JoeJester

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 26, 2005
    3,373
    1,157
    If the OP doesn't give a clue ... I won't give a response.

    Even with broken english or ESL or google translated english, the responder should have a clear idea of what the OP wants to accomplish. That is why you typically see the first responder asking for a schematic diagram or other clarification.

    As far as high voltages ... I wouldn't touch that one. It would be very difficult for someone to demonstate they have the knowledge for safely working at potentials that are lethal. In some cases that could be as low as 30 volts.
     
  16. mbohuntr

    Active Member

    Apr 6, 2009
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    I try to follow the lead of the people who started this site, they seem to have a good system. My first caution is against "Mains Voltage" . That seems to be the first place the new people with no electrical background go.
     
  17. Adjuster

    Well-Known Member

    Dec 26, 2010
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    Clearly there is some concern about what a given OP may have in mind when (s)he asks a question. We might do our best to make judgements about them, but what about the many other anonymous people who may read the thread, about whom we have no information? Do we need to be equally concerned about what they may do with information provided?

    Lots of threads discuss timing circuits, for example. Should this subject be prohibited on the grounds that someone reading it could use the information to help them build something harmful? Does it make any difference that there are other sources for such information, or could we still be held responsible for any harm done?
     
  18. retched

    AAC Fanatic!

    Dec 5, 2009
    5,201
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    Like I said before, there haven't been any government task-forces hunting timer circuits.

    There have been government task-forces for automotive lighting modifications.

    Plenty of schools ask their pupils to build clocks and timers...

    I dont know of any schools that ask students to replace tail lights with LEDs.

    So there are OBVIOUS NON EDUCATIONAL motives behind certain tasks.

    You can not cover your hiney when it comes to automotive lighting modifications.
     
  19. BillO

    Thread Starter Well-Known Member

    Nov 24, 2008
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    I don't know the answer. At least not for everyone. We are dealing with a subject of far reaching potential. There is no doubt about that, and so it may bring a moral obligation with it. I am all for freedom of knowledge. That is where my morality lies. Always have been and always will be. To me, we should answer peoples questions, regardless. We are either a source of knowledge or we are not, and I think it is preposterous of anyone to make decisions about whether to give it or not. But that is just me.

    It is obvious from the responses here that there is some dilemma. For my part, I will answer if I think I can contribute. If the moderators feel they have wisdom to decide who should learn and who should not, then I'll leave that decision in their capable hands.
     
  20. retched

    AAC Fanatic!

    Dec 5, 2009
    5,201
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    I agree to a point.

    When a thread is locked, access to the e-book is not.

    All of their questions CAN STILL BE ANSWERED.
     
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