Hackaday Links: April 19, 2020

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While the COVID-19 pandemic at least seems to be on a downward track, the dystopian aspects of the response to the disease appear to be on the rise. As if there weren’t enough busybodies and bluenoses shaming their neighbors for real or imagined quarantine violations on social media, now we have the rise of social-distancing enforcement drones. These have been in use in hot zones around the world, of course, but have only recently arrived in the US. From New Jersey to Florida, drones are buzzing about in search of people not cowering in fear in their homes and blaring messages about how they face fines and arrest for seeking a little fresh air and sunshine. We’re all in favor of minimizing contact with potentially infected people, but it seems like these methods might be taking things a bit too far.

If you somehow find yourself with some spare time and want to increase your knowledge, or at least expand your virtual library, Springer Publishing has some exciting news for you. The journal and textbook publisher has made over 400 ebook titles available for free download. We had a quick scan over the list, and while the books run the gamut from social sciences to astrophysics, there are plenty of titles that are right in the wheelhouse of most Hackaday readers. There are books on power electronics, semiconductor physics, and artificial intelligence, as well as tons more. They all seem to be recent titles, so the information isn’t likely to be too dated. Give the list a once-over and happy downloading.

Out of all the people on this planet, the three with the least chance of being infected with SARS-CoV-2 blasted off from Kazakhstan this week on Soyuz MS-16 to meet up with the ISS. The long-quarantined crew of Anatoly Ivanishin, Ivan Vagner, and Chris Cassidy swapped places with the Expedition 62 crew, who returned to Earth safely in the Soyuz MS-15 vehicle. It’s a strange new world they return to, and we wish them and their ISS colleagues all the best. What struck us most about this mission, though, was some apparently surreptitiously obtained footage of the launch from a remarkably dangerous position. We saw some analysis of the footage, and based on the sound delay the camera was perhaps as close as 150 meters to the launchpad. It’s hard to say if the astronauts or the camera operator was braver.

And finally, because neatness counts, we got this great tip on making your breadboard jumpers perfectly straight. There’s something satisfying about breadboard circuits where the jumpers are straight and exactly the length the need to be, and John Martin’s method is so simple you can’t help but use it. He just rolls the stripped jumpers between his bench and something flat; he uses a Post-it note pad but just about anything will do. The result is satisfyingly straight jumpers, ready to be bent and inserted. We bet this method could be modified to work with the stiffer wire normally used in circuit sculptures like those of Mohit Bhoite; he went into some depth about his methods during his Supercon talk last year, and it’s worth watching if you haven’t seen it yet.

29 thoughts on “Hackaday Links: April 19, 2020

  1. 1st off, at least 1 of the Soyuz crew is a cosmonaut ;-)
    2nd – the people on top of the huge potential bomb have a very good escape system that can (and has proven that it will, if needed) take them over a kilometer from the launch site in a very speedy manner. They are much safer then then cameraman on the ground.
    3rd – being this close to the launch is not brave, just ignorant of the danger. The Nedelin catastrophe gives a good ilustration why you want to be very far from the launch site. In case of a CATO, the cameraman would be literally incinerated.
    Last but not least, breaching the perimeter security in this manner will not go unnoticed by the FSB. You do not want those guys interested in you…

      1. Look at how fast the camera has to pan up to follow the rocket. If it’s not 150 meters it’s definitely Very close. On top of that, there’s not many vantage points further out that would capture a similar unobstructed view, even with a zoom lens.

        Assuming the launch was from pad 1/5 (Gagarin’s start) which is almost certain, The angles of the erector and service arms seem to point to the video being taken from the west of the pad, just south of the rail line and roads

        It’s definitely not from the west as the smoke and fire run away from the camera (which mean the flame trench must be on the other side of the camera. Doesn’t seem to be from due north or south either, as I would expect the railings and an edge of the launch platform structure to be visible.

        It really looks like the video was taken from the trees just about 300m southwest of the pad, west from the gray building. You can just about see the dome of the white bunker/tank in the ground next to that building in the video. It lines up perfectly.

  2. This is so bizarre Dan. Only last night I was dreaming about making breadboard circuit sculptures and finding ways to straighten an insulated wire (with a book), and here I’m, reading about this tip. Thanks John, and thank you Dan!

    1. It’s a good mix. and they seem to be pretty recent. Although I own a couple of the stats/ecometrics/numerical optimization titles from grad school, which is a while back now.

      It’s not my “if you only read one book on subject X” dream list, but for the price, I’m not complaining.

  3. +10 Dan, love it: “in search of people not cowering in fear in their homes and blaring messages about how they face fines and arrest for seeking a little fresh air and sunshine.” Glad to see the whole world hasn’t gone mad. Social distancing, sure. Shutting down hiking trails and roping off supplies to plant your garden for the year because it’s a ‘non-essential’ reason to leave your home – a bit off the deep end into banana-ville.

    1. Shutting down hiking trails and roping off the seed kiosks in garden / homes stores is a very specific set of restrictions, but some people really need more specific, concrete advice.

      If you buy your seeds at the garden store, as I do, you are familiar with the Ferry-Morse and Burpee seed kiosks where gardeners often stand elbow-to-elbow for 10-15 minutes picking out a particular kind of squash seeds or just looking through the flower assortments. In Spring, they bump into each other all day long as they select seed packets from the kiosk. So, the seed kiosks in fact do pose a greater danger than, say, anything in the light bulb isle.

      As for the hiking trails, in the midst of this pandemic with movies theaters and other entertainment shut down, people are re-discovering the outdoors, going for long walks and getting on bicycles for the first time in years. Some very out-of-shape people are jumping into physical activities that they might think are for beginners, but actually require greater strength and endurance than they know. Hiking is a great example. It sounds like a fun walk in the woods, but can actually be very physically challenging, especially on spring days that begin cool and end hot. So, when these new visitors get deep into the trail and faint or fall ill, other visitors, park staff, and medical crews have to come and rescue them. This takes important public safety staff away from the work we actually need them to do.

      Now, you are probably smart enough not to be doing these kinds of things, but not everyone is so some very specific advice can be helpful. It may even reduce the need for people managing this crisis to have to waste time answering “but what about this?” questions all day long.

      This specific guidance is an easy target for some clever-clever bloviating pundits and fringe political groups who see a chance to corral the power of an angry mob. Right now, the “seeds” and “hiking” examples are being used by one media outlet as the justification to incite crowds of strangers, including many older people, to gather in crowds to protest, thus enacting a kind of slow-motion mass suicide. Please don’t encourage them.

      1. The problem with hiking trails is not really about unfit people going hiking (though that may be a small part of it for some trails), but more about too many people on them at the same time. While this would theoretically not be a problem on most trails, especially on shorter and/or more popular trails things can get very busy very fast, especially on parking spots and the start and end of trails. I suspect that rather than having to figure out which trails might be OK to leave open and which to shut down, a blanket “shut it all down” was issued.

      2. We do need to social distance and take precautions, but remember that the loss of civil freedoms and of jobs due to lockdowns is also a kind of mass suicide, predicted to kill more over the coming years than the virus itself ever would directly.

        1. Keeping a million people idle a month wastes approx 1000 human lifetimes of achievement. However, if 50% of those million were to get virus, 20% of that became ill enough to notice, and 2% of those died, that’s 2000 deaths, and those are highly optimistic numbers. So at the moment the math is on the side of shutdowns.

        2. In the words of the late, great Senator John McCain, “I’m sorry, ma’am, you’re wrong.”

          No epidemiologist, data scientist, or statistician with professional training is predicting that the current high unemployment is actually going to kill more people than the number of people who have already died and will die of COVID19.

          As a society, we have effective treatments for unemployment and associated effects. We can provide access to physical and mental healthcare, job training, and unemployment benefits to cover food and shelter. We do not always choose to provide those to people who need it, but we have 100% effective treatments for unemployment.

          We have no effective treatment for COVID19 and for 1-3% of the population that gets the disease, the outcome is actual death — a real, not a metaphorical death. Actual death in the near term.

          So, no, not the same at all.

      3. It would go a long way if authorities would ease up just a little bit and not use such heavy handed tactics when enforcing practical health guidelines. Giving this pandemic an actual “object” (drones, authority) or a “face” (politicians, police), that already stressed people may be tempted to rebel against can not only make the overall situation worse, but also cause people to unintentionally spread this disease if they begin to disregard good advice that people have associated with a kind of oppression.

        As this drags on, media, politicians, and other bad actors will try to make us forget that
        We Are All In This Together.

    2. Agreed, my2c. And here in the US, the separation of powers is written into the Constitution. Someone in the executive branch can only order the executive branch to do something; they have no power to compel citizens to do anything. That’s a legislative function.

      In my state of Ohio, the assembly did previously pass a law to give the Director of Health absolute power in a health emergency, however it’s an invalid law. The legislative branch can’t delegate legislative powers to the executive branch. If our legislature would’ve passed these lockdown restrictions, that possibly would’ve been a more complex debate. But as it is at the moment, we simply have a supreme leader issuing orders.

  4. Downloaded the reddit page, popped the html open in vi, reduced it to a list of links named links.txt. Follow with this to download them all:

    mkdir books; cat list.txt | while read url ; do isbn=$(echo “$url” | cut -d= -f3); base=$(echo “$url” | sed ‘s/\/openurl.*$//’); curl -skL $url > tmp; pdfpath=$(grep ‘a href’ tmp | grep pdf | head -1 | cut -d\” -f2) ; echo “Fetching ${isbn}” ; curl -skL ${base}${pdfpath} –output books/${isbn}.pdf; done

    Now to find an ISBN lookup with a REST interface, and convert them to mobi with full metadata.

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