Hackaday Links: March 29, 2020

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It turns out that whacking busted things to fix them works as well on Mars as it does on Earth, as NASA managed to fix its wonky “mole” with a little help from the InSight lander’s robotic arm. Calling it “percussive maintenance” is perhaps a touch overwrought; as we explained last week, NASA prepped carefully for this last-ditch effort to salvage the HP³ experiment, and it was really more of a gentle nudge that a solid smack with the spacecraft’s backhoe bucket. From the before and after pictures, it still looks like the mole is a little off-kilter, and there was talk that the shovel fix was only the first step in a more involved repair. We’ll keep an ear open for more details — this kind of stuff is fascinating, and beats the news from Earth these days by a long shot.

Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic news isn’t all bad. Yes, the death toll is rising, the number of cases is still growing exponentially, and billions of people are living in fear and isolation. But ironically, we’re getting good at community again, and the hacker community is no exception. People really want to pitch in and do something to help, and we’ve put together some resources to help. Check out our Hackaday How You Can Help spreadsheet, a comprehensive list of what efforts are currently looking for help, plus what’s out there in terms of Discord and Slack channels, lists of materials you might need if you choose to volunteer to build something, and even a list of recent COVID-19 Hackaday articles if you need inspiration. You’ll also want to check out our calendar of free events and classes, which might be a great way to use the isolation time to better your lot.

Individual hackers aren’t the only ones pitching in, of course. Maybe of the companies in the hacker and maker space are doing what they can to help, too. Ponoko is offering heavy discounts for hardware startups to help them survive the current economic pinch. They’ve also enlisted other companies, like Adafruit and PCBWay, to join with them in offering similar breaks to certain customers.

More good news from the fight against COVID-19. Folding@Home, the distributed computing network that is currently working on folding models from many of the SARS-CoV-2 virus proteins, has broken the exaFLOP barrier and is now the most powerful computer ever built. True, not every core is active at any given time, but the 4.6 million cores and 400,000-plus GPUs in the network pushed it over from the petaFLOP range of computers like IBM’s Summit, until recently the most powerful supercomputer ever built. Also good news is that Team Hackaday is forming a large chunk of the soul of this new machine, with 3,900 users and almost a million work units completed. Got an old machine around? Read Mike Sczcys’ article on getting started and join Team Hackaday.

And finally, just because we all need a little joy in our lives right now, and because many of you are going through sports withdrawal, we present what could prove to be the new spectator sports sensation: marble racing. Longtime readers will no doubt recognize the mad genius of Martin and his Marble Machine X, the magnificent marble-dropping music machine that’s intended as a follow-up to the original Marble Machine. It’s also a great racetrack, and Martin does an amazing job doing both the color and turn-by-turn commentary in the mock race. It’s hugely entertaining, and a great tour of the 15,000-piece contraption. And when you’re done with the race, it’s nice to go back to listen to the original Marble Machine tune — it’s a happy little song for these trying times.

19 thoughts on “Hackaday Links: March 29, 2020

  1. It didn’t help that Chinese buried their head in the sand early on by silencing the doctors who saw this coming. China also unintentionally started SARS epidemic, and one would think they’d learn their lesson on how to contain new or unknown illness with mandatory quarantine and isolation by recalling everyone who would have left Wuhan to minimize the spread. But they didn’t and allowed many people to travel away from Wuhan.

    1. China did a good job. They are one of the few places which have managed to get off exponential growth. Could they have done better – sure.
      Many countries are not doing as well (e.g. USA). Dithering, inadequate supplies, inadequate testing, not preparing.
      When things go wrong, the important thing is to lay the blame.

    2. China has had multiple epidemics from viruses crossing over from animals to humans, I do hope they will kick the habit soon.
      Bye the way, they will probably not lose the ‘Trade War’, you are thinking in too short a time scale.

  2. No. No, it is not the flu, Dude.

    Definitely not the flu.

    In the last two weeks, I have attended, via video, two funerals of neighbors that I casually knew, a funeral of the parent of a former student, and, today, the funeral of a former student (22 years old).

    Most certainly not the flu.

  3. WBAI and 2600’s Off The Hook show’s latest episode this past week compared the flu with COVID-19.

    The regular flu, you may spread it to another 1.5 people. You barely get 150 people infected over ten iterations.

    This stuff? 2.7 people. Ten iterations of this goes into the thousands of infected people. No, you’re talking exponentially worse.

    Plus, as more data comes in, it hits EVERYBODY hard.

    This ain’t the flu. Listen to the experts. Social media knows nothing about anything. Go to the source.

  4. Panic buying got resolved pretty quickly, for everything except masks, but I suspect even that will be fixed soon, especially now that people don’t go out, and there’s less demand.

    This level of hype is about right. People are actually staying in, and that will save lives.

  5. I mostly find that people who say “it’s just the flu” are people who have never had flu. Your sniffle and cough that keeps you at home for a day or two are not flu.

    1. So you didn’t die of the ‘flu – good. A lot of people do die from ‘flu every year and sometimes there is a ‘flu pandemic which is is much, much worse than normal ‘flu epidemics. The Covid19 pandemic is not ‘flu (because not the same virus) and it is much, much worse than normal ‘flu epidemics.

      Do you want to see a catastrophe ? Or would you rather not have so many dead bodies littering up the morgues ?

  6. COVID isn’t the flu, it’s much more severe than regular or swine flu, much less severe than the 1918 flu. We need some level of basic social distancing and decent common sense, but the panic buying and lockdowns do have potential to be more disruptive than the disease. I think most people agree than their liberties (threatend by extreme lockdowns) and luxuries (threatened by the supply disruption inherent in lockdowns) are worth more than 2% of their life, by which logic we can’t help but accept some level of casualties yet must take ALL the NON-EXTREME measures we can to slow the spread. Extreme measures though don’t much improve things, they might even shift the inevitable endemic-hood of the disease into winter when it would sync up with regular flu and all manner of other illnesses and create the worst possible burden on health services. Keep washing your hands, keep social distancing (there is no good reason to need to be < 5 metres from another person for any extended period) and be on our guard against the virus, but also on our guard against the dangers of lockdown-triggered infrastructure disruption and creeping authoritarianism.

  7. COVID-19 is not the flu. It’s also 10 times more deadly than the flu and that might actually be underestimating it due to not having the full data.
    The so-called “panic buying” is really just a problem of unprecedented demand from everyone trying to stock up with several weeks worth of groceries when they normally only buy a week at a time. The stores only store an inventory for the lower demand normally and the logistics take a while to catch up. That’s all. Once people get a good cushion, the stores will be full again.

  8. Wow the entire thread started by the idiot that was calling COVID-19 just the flu and other bilge was deleted. I am actually surprised and pleased. Just as it is not free speech to yell fire in a crowed theater when their is none it is not free speech to tell people that there is no fire when there is one.

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