In 2018, the Camp Fire devastated a huge swathe of California, claiming 85 lives and costing 16.65 billion dollars. Measured in terms of insured losses, it was the most expensive natural disaster of the year, and the 13th deadliest wildfire in recorded history.
The cause of the fire was determined to be a single failed component on an electrical transmission tower, causing a short circuit and throwing sparks into the dry brush below – with predictable results. The story behind the failure was the focus of a Twitter thread by [Tube Time] this week, who did an incredible job of illuminating the material evidence that shows how the disaster came to be, and how it could have been avoided.
Mismanagement and Money
The blame for the incident has been laid at the feet of Pacific Gas and Electric, or PG&E, who acquired the existing Caribou-Palermo transmission line when it purchased Great Western Power Company back in 1930. The line was originally built in 1921, making the transmission line 97 years old at the time of the disaster. Despite owning the line for almost a full century, much of the original hardware was not replaced in the entire period of PG&Es ownership. Virtually no records were created or kept, and hardware from the early 20th century was still in service on the line in 2018.
Continue reading “Closely Examining How A PG&E Transmission Line Claimed 85 Lives In The 2018 Camp Fire”
We would have never guessed there would be so many browser-based CAD packages. While TinkerCAD is great for simple things, there are also packages such as OnShape that rival commercial CAD programs. A site calle Figuro claims to occupy the space between TinkerCAD and Blender. We aren’t so sure, but it is an interesting entry into the field. Apparently, Figuro has been around for some time, but has recently had a major face lift. The new interface looks good, but it has invalidated a number of video tutorials on their YouTube channel.
One of the things we like about TinkerCAD is it is highly discoverable. That is, you can fire it up, play with it a bit, and probably do quite a few things. Maybe it is just us, but Figuro didn’t give us the same experience. It is easy enough to draw simple shapes. But trying to multiselect was unreliable. Panning and rotating the view was very sensitive too, so we found we were occasionally lost in the work view with no easy way to reset the view. Even something as simple as subtracting one shape from another was painful.
Continue reading “Figuro Draws 3D In Browser”
Atmospheric pressure is all around us, and capable of providing a great deal of force when used properly. As Otto Von Guericke demonstrated with his Magdeburg hemispheres over 350 years ago, simply removing air from a chamber to create a vacuum can have astounding results. More recently, [Tom Stanton] has used vacuum to power a small 3D-printed dragster.
In the dragster build, a typical plunger syringe is plugged at the end, and the plunger pulled back. Atmospheric pressure acts against the vacuum, wanting to push the plunger back towards its original position. To make use of this, a string is attached to the plunger, causing it to turn a gear as it moves forward, driving the rear wheels through a belt drive. With the correct gear ratio on the belt drive, the dragster is capable of spinning its tires and shooting forwards at a quick pace.
The work is a great follow on from [Tom]’s earlier vacuum experiments, using syringes as small rockets. It reminds us of the classic CO2 dragsters from high school competitions, and would be a great project for any science class. Video after the break.
Continue reading “Vacuum Dragster Uses Syringes For Propulsion”
This is one of those so-simple-I-wish-I-invented-it hacks. Professor [Michael Peshkin] is teaching his engineering students remotely. While he has a nice second camera that he can use to transmit whatever he doodles on paper, most of his students just have the single webcam built into their laptops.
The solution is to put a mirror in front of the laptop cam, and flip the image left-to-right in software. They use Zoom, which has a mirror mode. Done.
The trick is making a nice frame. [Michael] has bent one out of wire, but suggests that a mirror compact works about as well in a pinch. It’s super important that his students can ask him questions backed up by drawings, and this reduces the startup cost to nearly nothing, making it universally useful.
[Prof. Peshkin] is not a stranger to mirror-based pedagogical hacks. Seven years ago, he showed us how to make a transparent whiteboard for video lectures, and it blew up on Hackaday. Since then, there are hundreds or thousands of Lightboards in the wild. We hope this idea catches on as well!
No, no, at first we thought it was a Pokemon too, but Placemon monitors your place, your home, your domicile. Instead of a purpose-built device, like a CO detector or a burglar alarm, this is a generalized monitor that streams data to a central processor where machine learning algorithms notify you if something is awry. In a way, it is like a guard dog who texts you if your place is unusually cold, on fire, unlawfully occupied, or underwater.
[anfractuosity] is trying to make a hacker-friendly version based on inspiration from a scientific paper about general-purpose sensing, which will have less expensive components but will lose accuracy. For example, the article suggests thermopile arrays, like low-resolution heat-vision, but Placemon will have a thermometer, which seems like a prudent starting place.
The PCB is ready to start collecting sound, temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, illumination, and passive IR then report that telemetry via an onboard ESP32 using Wifi. A box utilizing Tensorflow receives the data from any number of locations and is training to recognize a few everyday household events’ sensor signatures. Training starts with events that are easy to repeat, like kitchen sounds and appliance operations. From there, [anfractuosity] hopes that he will be versed enough to teach it new sounds, so if a pet gets added to the mix, it doesn’t assume there is an avalanche every time Fluffy needs to go to the bathroom.
We have another outstanding example of sensing household events without directly interfacing with an appliance, and bringing a sensor suite to your car might be up your alley.
Back in 2018, Microsoft began Project Natick, deploying a custom-designed data center to the sea floor off the coast of Scotland. Aiming to determine whether the underwater environment would bring benefits to energy efficiency, reliability, and performance, the project was spawned during ThinkWeek in 2014, an event designed to share and explore unconventional ideas.
This week, Microsoft reported that the project had been a success. The Northern Isles data center was recently lifted from the ocean floor in a day-long operation, and teams swooped in to analyse the hardware, and the results coming out of the project are surprisingly impressive.
Continue reading “Underwater Datacenter Proves To Be A Success”
You wake up in the morning, and check Hackaday over breakfast. Then it’s off to work or school, where you’ve already had to explain the Jolly Wrencher to your shoulder-surfing colleagues. And then to a hackspace or back to your home lab, stopping by the skull-and-cross-wrenches while commuting, naturally. You don’t bleed red, but rather #F3BF10. It’s time we talked.
The Hackaday writing crew goes to great lengths to cover all that is interesting to engineers and enthusiasts. We find ourselves stretched a bit thin and it’s time to ask for help. Want to lend a hand while making some extra dough to plow back into your projects? We’re looking for contributors to write a few articles per week and keep the Hackaday flame burning.
Contributors are hired as private contractors and paid for each article. You should have the technical expertise to understand the projects you write about, and a passion for the wide range of topics we feature. You’ll have access to the Hackaday Tips Line, and we count on your judgement to help us find the juicy nuggets that you’d want to share with your hacker friends.
If you’re interested, please email our jobs line (jobs at hackaday dot com) and include:
- One example article written in the voice of Hackaday. Include a banner image, at least 150 words, the link to the project, and any in-links to related and relevant Hackaday features. We need to know that you can write.
- Details about your background (education, employment, interests) that make you a valuable addition to the team. What do you like, and what do you do?
- Links to your blog/project posts/etc. that have been published on the Internet, if any.
What are you waiting for? Ladies and Gentlemen, start your applications!