A lot of annoying little hacks are needed to keep our integer-based calendar in sync with a floating-point universe, and the big one, leap day, passed us by this week. Aside from the ignominy of adding a day to what’s already the worst month of the year, leap day has a tendency to call out programmers who take shortcuts with their code. Matt Johnson-Pint has compiled a list of 2020 leap day bugs that cropped up, ranging from cell phones showing the wrong date on February 29 to an automated streetlight system in Denmark going wonky for the day. The highest-profile issue may have been system crashes of Robinhood, the online stock trading platform. Robinhood disagrees that the issues were caused by leap day code issues, saying that it was a simple case of too many users and not enough servers. That seems likely given last week’s coronavirus-fueled trading frenzy, but let’s see what happens in 2024.
Speaking of annoying time hacks, by the time US readers see this, we will have switched to Daylight Saving Time. Aside from costing everyone a precious hour of sleep, the semiannual clock switch always seems to set off debates about the need for Daylight Saving Time. Psychologists think it’s bad for us, and it has elicited a few bugs over the years. What will this year’s switch hold? Given the way 2020 has been going so far, you’d better buckle up.
Can distributed computation be harnessed in the fight against Covid-19? Folding@Home thinks so, and wants you to donate some computational cycles to the effort. Folding@Home uses an ad hoc cloud to run protein folding simulations, which are computationally difficult problems that normally require supercomputer-level machines. They hope that enlisting more volunteers will increase the power of their system and reveal the mysteries of 2019-nCoV, the coronavirus causing Covid-19. Download Folding@Home and put that spare machine to work.
Coincidentally, one of the most famous distributed computation efforts of all time, SETI@Home, announced this week that they’d be shutting down. For 21 years, the possibility of having your computer be the one that teased the call from ET from the background noise of the radio universe kept people hooked. The SETI@Home shut down is only a hiatus; the team says that the effort has been so successful that they have a huge backlog of results to work through, and they need a little breathing room. Sounds like a great time to switch to Folding@Home.
And finally, color us only slightly disappointed that Rover McRoverface wasn’t at least a finalist in the Mars Rover 2020 naming competition. NASA announced the winner this week with much fanfare, as the somewhat lengthy video below shows. Skip to 9:27 for the reveal; we won’t spoil it here, but we will say that we’re sure our colleague Jenny List will be displeased with the results. Curious as to what’s onboard the new rover? We’ve got you covered.